Later, when working as a self-employed jeweller, and turning out the equivalent of a degree show every three months, I realized we'd been on the wrong tack. What we should have been doing was creating a body of work; making lots of things, including mistakes, then at the end of each term assessing what worked and what didn't, and moving on from there.
If you look at all of a writer's books, or an exhibition of a designer's work, there will be some things you love, others you don't. Mary Renault has written books I will reread for the rest of my life, and others (some of her early work) I've read once. Lalique was a genius, but a few of his pieces do nothing for me at all. And this is fine; fine for them, and for the rest of us too. Few mistakes are fatal. Let's all take risks, get things wrong, and care less about it. We're more likely to get it right in the end.
I have Jerry Cleaver’s Rules of the Page copied to the notes of each book I write. Here they are:
- Creating isn't normal reality.
- You will make a mess.
- You must write badly first.
- Mistakes lead to discovery.
- Letting yourself be bad is the best way to become good.
- Everything can be fixed.
- The less you care, the better you write.
- Everything that happens is OK.
- Progress is never even.
- It will get good again—always.
- Keep writing no matter how awful it feels.