"It's Ok to Fail"

Thursday, June 09, 2011
by: Anne Greenawalt

I am taking a graduate class this summer called Seminar on Teaching English and Language Arts.  I didn’t realize when I signed up for the class that its focus is on drama and performance, two things that have not previously interested me academically or personally. 
photo by Apple's Eyes Studios
But now I find myself in this semi-drama class, doing improv and other theater-minded activities – in front of the class.  In the past, this would have been enough to make me want to drop the class.  
“I'm a writer – I don’t have to speak in front of people, let alone do improv and other potentially embarrassing feats.”  This was my previous mentality.
I'm not entirely sure how or why my mentality on this subject has changed, but I decided to stick with this class and allow it to pull me out of my comfort zone.  That’s the only way I’ll learn anything new.
Today, we played this game with partners: I had to pretend to walk through a door and then say my partner’s name.  She said my name, and then I had to ask a question, and then she had to respond.  We had to go through this five times.  Sounds easy.  But do you suppose I could think of anything interesting to ask?  No.  My mind went blank.  “How are you?” “Where are we?”  Not really the stuff of the Academy Awards.
Afterwards, our teacher asked us to evaluate our performance.  I said I was feeling uncomfortable because I am not used to doing activities like that and I didn’t feel like I was in character.  
Our teacher responded by saying that it doesn’t matter if we don’t complete these activities perfectly.  It doesn’t matter if we think we had a terrible performance. 
What is important is that we can evaluate our performance, look upon it as a learning experience, and know how to make it better in the future.
And I thought, “What a great life lesson.”  Not that I haven’t previously heard that “it’s ok to fail” in multiple different contexts.  But it’s reassuring to hear it again and again, especially when I am so often focused on doing everything perfectly the first time.
This made me think of my writing, and how I'm so hesitant to start new writing projects because I expect my first draft to be perfect and get a little discouraged when it isn’t.  But it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect the first time or not – drafts are like learning experiences.  I can always edit later.  

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