Dare to Be Wrong

dare to be wrong

You know there’s no right or wrong in art, don’t you? Then why do we always feel we are doing it wrong? Dare to be wrong!

When did different doing become wrong thinking?

I had a typical childhood. Laughed at on the playground and in the the classroom when I did or said something wrong. One day I fell and skinned my knew and I was even made fun of for that because the red blood running down my leg clashed with my red knee-high sock. Then, in high school they mocked me for running for class president because I was too happy-go-lucky.  Definitely not the serious type that typifies presidential material.

As a quilter dating back to the 1970s, I always felt like an imposter and people were laughing at me behind my back because I could never attain the precision that the quilting police demanded. Nor did I want to, which also made me feel wrong.  Their laughing at me made me feel wrong for being me. It was an easy leap to making myself feel wrong for a multitude of reasons.

When I created my first Fragments in 1999 – small fabric collages I had envisioned, using quotes and photos I had collected and loved for years – my first reaction was, “This is stupid. It doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen.”

Thank god my better self came along and slapped me upside the head (really!) and made me realize, “This doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen, and that is a GOOD thing” Still, when I bravely took them to sell at a small art conference, I was afraid I’d be ridiculed. People would find fault with my stitching, my atypical fabric combinations and well, the whole idea of the thing. But I told myself, “Dare to be wrong.”

Where did that bravery come from?

I had created something I so truly loved, something that expressed me so completely that I believed my soul had been made visible. If I was the only one who liked them, I didn’t really care, because my liking them was all that mattered. I was the little kid, excitedly waving her latest creation, announcing “I made this!” I had found my voice and wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

That’s why these two quotes have always held such meaning for me:

She had found a jewel down inside herself and she had wanted to walk where people could see her and gleam it around. Zora Neal Hurston

We are trying to communicate that which lies in our deepest heart, which has no words. Katherine Paterson

So back to you – does being true to yourself ever feel wrong? Do you avoid creating or sharing what you love? Why?  Because it doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing, or isn’t the art style/fad/darling of the moment? Are you holding back on being you?

Does being a learner make you wrong? Is beginning art, novice art, unusual advanced art wrong art?

Is this Creativity Gap, this fear of being wrong, holding you back from creating the art that is truly you?

How wrong are you willing to be in order to be alright?

I now realize that all those kids that laughed at me with false bravado because they, we, you, me, all have the same fear of being wrong. All this fear does is add another brick in the wall you are building between yourself and your dream of mastery.

Dare to be wrong!


  1. Oh Lesley how your words speak to me… I grew up wishing I was creative somehow, someway, anyway really. I only started to experiment with mixed media a few years ago and have loved it. But always the fear of ‘doing it wrong’ has stunted my growth and pursuing of my interests. I also, somewhat recently, started to explore jewelry making and have loved that as well. But again the fear monster has crept into my mind to discourage me. It’s quite ridiculous that at 46 years old I still can react like a child to the fear of what others may think. So with your words of inspiration I’m determined to not be afraid and create what I love and dare to be wrong. Thank you Lesley!!

    • Lesley Riley says:

      I had that idea of “wrong” hanging over me so long, too, when actually, we can invent or chance upon new ways, new ideas, and new solutions by using our innate creativity. How lucky we are!

  2. I was trying to reach someone to ask a question about TAP and happened upon this article and want to thank you for your words of encouragement. I am critical of myself and my creations. You have made me realize that I need to just create what I like and feel and forget what others might think of my creations. Thanks!

    • Lesley Riley says:

      I’m so glad my words were helpful, Loretta. You’re not alone in feeling that way.