Recently, a student of mine was attempting to rub out a contrasting stray mark that ran through her "perfect" box of saturated color. I quietly watched while she talked her way through her anxiety while she continued to paint adding to the offensive mark. First she was irritated, then disappointed, then sad, then resigned, then neutral, then curious, then exploratory, then generative, then pleased, then lastly, proud. I held my breath, waiting for her to need help from me, a word or perhaps more, encouragement, acceptance, disappointment, to basically assist her in her time of stress.
Because she was absorbed in her own experience, I has some moments to reflect on how I should best respond when the time came. I was preparing myself for a brilliant comment. My moment did not come; she figured it out on her own--she stayed with her image, narrating aloud her feelings as listed above. By staying with her "mistake" and exploring the negative feelings that arose, she was able to transform her image and her experience.
This is what some might refer to as the Alchemical Process of Art--when we trust some inner intuitive impulse that creates gold out of coal--something out of nothing. Similar to practitioners of Mindfulness who report when they enter a feeling with non judgement and exit the other side transformed.
Why do we fret over a drip or mark or poorly rendered figure? Anxiety. A desire to have things "right." I want to encourage you to trust your mistakes as unconscious messages, as opportunities to accept yourself, to let go of the pursuit of perfection.
Imagine the last time you made a mistake. Remember any bad feelings that this generated. Notice what arises, anger, fear, rejection, shame. As you find yourself reacting to these feelings as "bad" or "good," purposely change your inner dialogue to label these feelings as "painful" or "suffering." Imagine your heart expanded and radiate this heart energy towards yourself, radically accepting your mistake and the resulting painful feelings. Allow the pain to dissolve like sugar in hot tea. Breathe. Accept. Love.
Now go out there and make some mistakes!