Mistakes Make You

by Alison Minami

As a mother to a young child, I often think of the lessons that I want to teach my daughter. I think about how I can instill in her the spirit of creative risk-taking. I want her to be willing to fail, to fall flat on her face and still get up. I was always inspired by the story that Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx shapewear, shares from childhood when her father would require her and her brother to report back their failures at the end of every week. He wanted to instill in them a willingness to try new things despite the fear of failure. He was not interested in their easy or comfortable achievements. I know these kind of stories are aspirational and also reflect all kinds of privilege that don’t account for the very real social and economic struggles of both children and adults, but I still like it. I’m always thinking about what my version of this parenting will look like, mostly because it is a skill that I feel I did not learn as a young child, and then, as an artist.

I have been paralyzed with fear when asking for help or advocacy in my creative life. I’ve hovered my finger over the send button when trying to reach out to a person that I deemed to have some sort of authoritative role or in a position to negatively critique me or outright reject me. I have stood awkwardly at the drink table at many a networking event, wanting to disappear into the walls. I have sat in darkened rooms, my face burning hot from a rejection letter. Honestly, it’s embarrassing. It’s much better now…I think age has made me more resilient, but I also feel like I wasted a lot energy in worry or self-consciousness. Nobody cares, I must remind myself.

So then, I ask myself, how to build resilience for my daughter, so that she doesn’t become too precious or perfectionist, but that she sustains passion and joy in her artistry. So you can imagine my delight when she sat at the piano yesterday–she started lessons–and sang me an original song that she wrote. It was only one line, but it had heart and it was lyrical as songs should be. “If somebody hurts, hurts you, I won’t be fine.” Maybe I’m just being one of those parents who delights in everything their kid says or does, but I thought it was pretty good. When she explained the songwriting process to me she said, “You know how I make my songs? I make a lot of mistakes. It’s okay if I make mistakes because I learn from them.” This was such a proud parent moment for me, and now my daughter can give back the lesson to me.

I’m struggling with a new play. There’s a whole lot of non-work happening with a whole lot of loose thinking about different avenues and directions. Starting at the blank page is always a challenge. I just need to adopt the spirit of making mistakes.

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