Mistake? No Problem: Or, How to Embrace Mistakes

Sometimes, it feels like nothing you do is right, starting out with the initial idea to start. This is completely untrue. It isn’t a mistake unless you decide it is.

Besides being a writer, I also love crafts of all varieties, especially miniatures and dollshouses. Which is why I had the “brilliant idea” to make the kidlet a dollshouse for Christmas. We started early in the year, and the behemoth is still in pieces (and not for lack of trying). And it occurs to me that creating this dollshouse from scratch is a lot like writing a story.

One of the walls, just starting out
One of the walls, just starting out

First, you have the idea. Then you make a plan. Like most of my novels, this isn’t my first time around. I’ve built a dollshouse before, but never one quite as ambitious. But then, what’s the point not challenging yourself?

Next, you realize the enormity of your plan. It’s a little scary. This is when you realize how many words your novel needs. Or in my case, I first saw the pieces of the walls stood up in a test run. The behemoth will stand almost three-feet high, I kid you not. It’s HUGE! But, just as you can’t stop to consider and worry about how you’ll reach 100k when you’re at the beginning of your novel, you can’t fret over every word. You just write this scene. And the next. And the next.

Then you hit the midpoint, and think it will never ever be complete. Sometimes for novels this happens during rewrites, sometimes during the first draft when you hit the actual midpoint of the story, especially if you haven’t pre-plotted. It’s usually about 40,000 words for me when writing the story isn’t as “fun” as it was in the beginning, probably when the novelty of a new idea starts to fade. When building an enormous dollshouse, this happens when you’ve been gluing what seems like millions of pre-stained coffee-stirrer sticks to make hardwood floors, and you’ve just pasted the wrong wallpaper in two separate rooms. If it was a novel, you’d quit or delete it. With a dollshouse, there was a strong desire to burn the darned thing. Do not despair. You’ve just hit the midpoint low.

The first floor. The tiles are painted and cut out of cardboard.
The first floor. The tiles are painted and cut out of cardboard.

Next comes the part where you embrace mistakes and soldier on anyway. You are a professional (or in my case, too damned stubborn to quit anyway). So at this point you can decide to rip out the mistakes and start again, or embrace them and just move on. Which you choose depends on  you, but personally, sometimes I like sticking with the mistake and using it as an opportunity. After all, it may have been a mistake that brought us this far to start with – what other wonders could lay ahead? Make a list, laying out all the steps you need to get to “done.” At this juncture, it’s helpful to enlist assistance. For a writer, call on other writerly friends, or best of all, a critique partner or possibly just someone to brainstorm with. For a dollshouse, get someone who’s better at measuring than you, and someone who doesn’t give a darn which wallpaper was supposed to go where in the first place, and doesn’t understand why every room needed to be different anyway (aka, the husband).

The beast as of Saturday night. The wallpaper is complete, and a few short steps, we start to assemble.
The beast as of Saturday night. The wallpaper is complete, and a few short steps, we start to assemble.

The beast rises! And you witness the fruits of your labors. After much sweating and crying, your hard work starts to pay off. As a writer, maybe you hold a completed first draft in your hands – or perhaps, a third or fourth draft. For the dollshouse, this is the point when the mounds of wood and strange shaped pieces actually come together to form what resembles a house.  (I have not reached this point with this project yet, but I’m getting there).

Decoration, polish, and voila! You have conquered and won! This is the point we all wait for, where the novel actually stands as a novel, and you think, “hey, this isn’t half bad!” For the dollshouse, this will be Christmas morning when the kidlet sets eyes on it. I’m totally after a good reaction, so I confess to having been priming her since, oh, May that if she’s really good, perhaps she’ll get a dollshouse of her very own. I can’t wait to see her expression, just as a writer can’t wait for someone to finally read their story.

Speaking of which, the writing actually needs some work now that the dollshouse has had its due for the evening.

But first, what about you – have you ever taken on a project that seemed like a great idea at the time … and which you later wondered if you’d ever complete? A renovation perhaps? A novel? Love to hear from you. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a terrific week. And hey, liked this post? Why not follow the blog?