Your Mistakes Define Your Style


I’ve got a new obsession: bullet journals. It’s really a combination of old obsessions — list-making, planning, and books — all coming together in a different way. As with any new interest, I’m in the process of learning all about it. I’m reading blog posts, watching how-to videos, and examining images of other people’s systems to see which ideas I might adopt for my own. I’ve even joined some Facebook groups. I find a well-run closed group is a great place to ask questions.

What does all of this have to do with mistakes?

Yesterday, I saw an FB post from someone who is just starting their first bullet journal. She admitted she’s a perfectionist and went on to say that she messed up her first journal so badly that it is now her practice journal. I was OK with that. What I wasn’t OK with was her declaration that she will not let herself write a single word in her new “official” journal until she is certain she can do it perfectly.

That broke my heart, because I know what it’s like to be a perfectionist. As desperate as we might be to achieve perfection, we are all human. We never can and never will be perfect. If I made that sort of deal with myself about a project, I would never begin. The fear of making a mistake would freeze me in my tracks and kill any enthusiasm I had for the project dead.

This morning, I ran across this great quote:

The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it’s considered to be your style. — Fred Astaire

I love that idea that our mistakes are actually our style. It fits perfectly with everything I’ve been hearing from Sketchbook Skool about embracing the mistakes I make in my drawing to the encouraging words of many of the bullet journaling experts.

Bullet journals are customized, hand-written planners. They are prone to all sorts of mistakes, from typos to calendars with the wrong number of days. A recent favorite I saw was someone who kept spelling Wednesday wrong and decided to overcome the problem by not trying any more.*

We all make mistakes, especially when we are learning how to do something new. I know not everything I am trying in my bullet journals (yes, journals; I have two already) is going to work. I have written things in the wrong space and scratched it out. I have started layouts I am not sure I need. I keep changing from all caps to lower case and back again. So it’s a little messy, but it’s also real.

Which is good enough for me.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How do you deal with it when you make mistakes?

*She wrote “Wedareyouf*ingkiddingme” instead.

4 thoughts on “Your Mistakes Define Your Style”

  1. I struggle with perfectionism and am terrible about abandoning projects the moment I realize I can’t complete it perfectly. Now I keep a card on my desk with this quote from Julia Cameron, “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough…that we should try again.” Now I keep reminding myself (over and over) to be proud that I’m trying and practicing, and that perfection does not exist. It helps. Will have to look into bullet journals, sounds fun!

    1. I struggle with perfectionism, too. This month I am practicing painting with watercolors. I keep reminding myself that I am a beginner and allowed to make mistakes.

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