A Little Stretching Will Do You Good

Jennifer Paros has a great article about mistakes in this month’s issue. I think that what we call mistakes are often most misunderstood when viewed from the outside in. That is, a writer we love puts out a book we find mysteriously unsatisfying. What has happened? Are they slipping? Critics, sensing blood, might even rip that writer, declaring that she has spent her creative juice. This always assumes that each book is a discrete event disconnected from the last or the next. But nothing is discrete, really; the book jackets merely contain a portion of your ideas. Which is to say, one book grows from the last and into the next. Mistakes are usually the artist attempting to grow, and growth is not always pretty.

But grow we must. So be kind to yourself as you find your way. We are always seeking the new, the new, the new. Eventually what used to work for us will not, because like it or not we ourselves have changed. This will be uncomfortable as we resist letting go of some familiar story or another. And then it will be uncomfortable perhaps again as we begin exploring the new direction for our work.

So it must be. I ran the high hurdles in high school, a race that requires maximum flexibility. At first, I would dread the stretching exercises I had to put myself through before I started my training. My hamstrings burned as I touched my toes. But after a time I came to expect and then, after more time still, enjoy the burning—what had begun as pain became instead what I knew expansion felt like.

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