Thursday, September 30, 2010

What do we learn more from: Mistakes or Successes

We've all heard the adage "You learn more from mistakes than successes."

That depends on what you want to learn. Do you want to learn what mistakes not to make or what works? What equals [i]more[/i] learning?

We all make mistakes. Writers make [b]tons[/b] of them just learning our process. We learn what not to do more than what we learn works for us. Each time we learn what doesn't work, we are that much closer to what does work, but ultimately what we want to learn is what works. Quantity-wise we have more mistakes, but quality-wise it is figuring out what does work that we learn more from.

On my desk is an email from August 2009. On it a professional author I adore said "your story gave me goosebumps...when you make that first sale, I'll be in line of release day to buy your book" about an email I posted to a loop. When I met her at RWA Nationals this year, she remembered my email. Her email taught me more than all of my mistakes combined. It said "Here is your strength. This is what works for you." It said "If you use this in your writing, it is something I want to read."

How many of us have gotten a comment, especially by someone we admire, saying something similar? That something in particular moved them? That they loved how you phrased something? That you nailed something? These comments teach us more than our mistakes. We simply don't think we learn from them. Since we did something right, what is there to learn?

The answer is we learn what works. If you take that comment and apply it to your writing as a whole, your writing will jump a few notches and you will gain confidence.

So don't just think about mistakes as learning opportunities. Think of successes that way, too. Below share some comments you've gotten that said "You are doing this right" and think about how to apply them to your writing as a whole.

That email is to the right of my computer. On the left is a quote by Stanislavsky "Craft is always secondary to the truth of emotional connection." As long as I keep that in mind when I write, how important that emotional connection is and how creating it is my strength, my writing stays on track.

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