My dear friend Kaitlen posted a status update on Facebook on Friday that was nothing short of inspiring: “Kaitlen has come to the conclusion that pancakes fix everything. Just like duct tape!” This immediately became my muse for dinner plans that night. All I wanted was good old-fashioned breakfast-y comfort food that would temporarily erase the effects of an all-around weird week.
As I mixed up my pancake batter, another post about pancakes popped into my mind. This time it was Merlin Mann’s blog post, “Resolved: Stop Blaming the Pancake.” I hope you will take advantage of this link and check it out for yourselves, but to summarize, Mann reminds us how that first pancake is ALWAYS terrible. It never works out. It’s a funny shape, or it’s too thin, or tastes funny. Something is always wrong with that first pancake. As I prepared to make MY first pancake for dinner, and remembered this post, I admit that I thought, “Well that won’t happen to me- not like it’s scientifically proven that all first pancakes suck.” As usual, I held myself to a higher standard and expected my results to differ greatly from the norm. But sure enough, I was humbled immediately by the demise of that first pancake. It was anything but perfectly round and much too thin.
As I laughed to myself and made subsequent pancakes that turned out much better than that pesky first one, I remembered the most salient point of Mann’s post: Just because the first pancake sucks doesn’t mean you should stop making pancakes. This willingness to risk making a mistake is so fundamental to the arts. Performing, painting, pancakes… taking chances is essential to any creative process. It might not work. In fact, the bigger the risk, the more colossal the failure will be if it doesn’t go right. Do it anyway. See what happens. You have to be willing to try something new. That’s creativity.
As an acting student, I was the Queen of Second Guessing Myself. I would run the scene or monologue over and over in my head, trying to mentally map out how each choice I was thinking of would play out in reality. I over-analyzed to the point of scaring myself out of doing anything 100%. But when I started teaching, I realized how paralyzing that could be. Planning is an important building block for any effective lesson. But it only takes you so far. Then the improvisation kicks in. You can’t let fear of failure hold you back from trying new things. So take that risk. Make that first pancake. If it doesn’t work out the way you wanted, try again. Make another pancake.
Photo from: recipesfromhome-online.com