Purposeful Mistakes

At church a month or so ago, I was sitting with my friend’s daughters when one of them scribbled all over the other’s blank drawing paper. Noting the older girl’s trembling lip, I quickly sat next to her and asked her if she was upset because of the scribbles on her paper. She nodded. Then, from deep in my memory banks, I pulled a creative exercise that I hadn’t thought about in years.

I’m sorry she scribbled on your paper. That wasn’t very nice. But you know what I used to do when I was little? I would take a piece of blank paper just like this and I would scribble nonsense onto it. Sometimes I would even close my eyes and just make a whole bunch of lines and circles and squares. Then, when I was done, I would look at what was left and make a drawing out of it. So maybe this scribble here is the design on somebody’s t-shirt and now you have to make the person who is wearing it. Or maybe this scribble over here can be turned into a giraffe? Do you think if you squint your eyes really tight you can see an animal here?

She sniffled and then looked up with eyes bright on creativity. She nodded and bounced off with her paper. I didn’t catch up with her after service and I can’t say that I ever saw what became of the scribbled paper, but I thought about that for a long time after.

When I was younger, I would purposefully make “mistakes” just to see how I could clean them up. I loved making something out of nothing – turning a crumbled piece of scribbled paper into something beautiful. There’s something poetic about turning a scribble into a story or turning an embarrassing moment into a triumph.

This week, think beyond the scribbled paper. See that hurdle as the starting point. See that difficulty as your painting. You just need to find a way to build around it, keeping the scribble with you, but weaving it into your story.

Love always,