This is the beginning of a short series on what FM Alexander can teach us about creativity. I hope you like it!
For my son’s birthday recently, I gave him a book called Make Art, Make Mistakes. It led me to think about the relationship between creativity and experimentalism.
Often, especially when I work with musicians, I encounter people who have come to believe that mistakes are not a good thing. Indeed, for some musicians, one of the most prevailing lessons that they learned through their training is that Mistakes are Bad.
Of course, the mistakes that the teachers were warning against was the sort of slip-up that we are led to believe mars a good (read: flawless) performance. But what tends to happen is that in our desire for the good (flawless) performance, we begin to fear the mistake. And as we fear, we make what FM Alexander might have termed a mental reservation, a decision to close ourselves off from performance choices that we consider riskier and more likely to result in mistakes.
We play it safe.
But safe is, ultimately, boring.
And safe doesn’t get us to new places and new ideas. FM Alexander didn’t play it safe when he stood in front of the mirror, trying to work out what was causing his voice problems. He experimented. He tried things. At one point, midway through his experiments, he even wrote “all my efforts up till now to improve the use of myself in reciting had been misdirected.”*
Alexander was prepared to risk failure in his efforts to resolve his vocal problems. And we need to be prepared to risk failure if we want to push the boundaries of our creativity.
Be like FM Alexander and experiment.
Make art. Make mistakes. Have fun.
What one thing can you do today to help you take more risks? What one project or task will you pledge to stop playing safe?
Next week: how decision-making can help you, and how FM Alexander used it to great effect!
Picture by Jennifer Mackerras