Quote of the Week: “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce
Writing Exercise of the Week: Write for 10 minutes about a time you started something (a fire, a fight, a company, an argument).
Ah, who wouldn’t love a do over — a chance to start again from scratch?
You could go back one hour, one day, one year, a lifetime. Do overs are not to be confused with mulligans, a term borrowed from golf which lets you discard a bad shot and take another. Do overs are not to be confused with second chances, which implies that while you’re getting a second go (at a business assignment, a school assignment, marriage), no one’s forgotten what happened the first time around. Second chances suggest that someone is counting or keeping score. Second chances mean the first attempt was not good enough or a failure. There are times in your life when you are grateful for a second chance, especially if you’ve been ill or had a near death experience, but they’re not do overs. With mulligans and second chances, you carry the memory of the first attempt with you into the second.
A true do over, however, is a reset. We wish for do overs when we say something we wish we hadn’t, when we embarrass ourselves, when we make a decision we regret seconds (or years) later. Do overs are our hope that nobody was paying attention or that, in pressing the reset button, memories of the action requiring the do over will be erased so we won’t be reminded of what happened any more.
If books and movies have taught us anything, it’s that do overs never work. We think they will—we hope desperately they will—we may even be convinced that the only way for things to be set right again is for a full-on do over. It can get downright apocalyptic. Plenty of “blow up the world” proponents believe that starting over from scratch is better than dealing with what we have right now.
Wisdom. Clarity. Humility. Compassion. A deeper knowing of what you want (and don’t want), of who you want to be (and don’t want to be). If the do over leads you to ask “How do I move on from here?” or “What do I do next?” it hasn’t been in vain. You are aware—perhaps painfully so—about how it has changed you.
Writers write to explore. We pay attention to details, we notice the nuances. Is that to say we don’t wish for do overs? Of course not. Do overs have a seductive quality—it’s a fast and easy way out. But with writing—and life—there is no fast and easy way out. We go through experiences because they help clarify who we are, so we can see who we are. Moments that make us want a do over are moments that have the greatest capacity to teach us what we need to know.
Darien’s last workshop of the year, Get an Agent and Get Published, will be on Sunday, Nov. 17, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit waimeaeducation.com for more information and to register.