LLC002: Break Out of Your Rut with Creative Mistakes

  • If you’ve made a mistake in your creative work, should you fix it and move on?
  • Or is there something to be learned there? Something new and cool?


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Story time: My mistake

One day when I was just getting started with photography, Nicole and I went out just to have some fun taking photos of each other. We actually both, separately, had the idea to go out that weekend for it, so it worked out great that she was down for it too. She knew about this really nice little park about 20 minutes away, it’s got a little pocket pond and a nice big fountain, lots of trees, very picturesque.

So we got dressed up in relatively nice clothes, got to the park, and I started taking pictures just of things that were just around. The neighborhood around the park had painted some pumpkins and put them around the park – this was around Halloween time. They were pretty well done! I took pictures of a few of them, but in particular, I took a few of this first pumpkin and I didn’t remember that I had put the white balance was in manual mode, and was way off from what it should have been. Basically the orange pumpkins came out blue.

Raw photo of a Halloween pumpkin - Live Life Creative podcast

So, that was my mistake – I gotta take a few test shots first next time.

I got home, opened up the picture, and I decided to work on some editing skills and see what I could do. The first picture I decided I would try to make as happy and vibrant looking as I could, to see how far in the right direction I could pull it back to.

It did not come out very natural looking. It was still pretty cool looking, but definitely a certain “style” (in big air quotes).

Edited photo of a Halloween pumpkin - Live Life Creative podcast

For the second picture, I wanted to take it in a different direction. Instead of being happy, I wanted to make it feel kinda creepy, like the kind of pumpkin that would be at a Halloween carnival from the Goosebumps books or something.

Raw photo of a Halloween pumpkin - Live Life Creative podcast

So I took it darker, left it a lot more blue-ish, more contrast:

Edited photo of a creepy Halloween pumpkin - Live Life Creative podcast

So what can I take away from these two messed up photos? If you you mess up in a project, should you just chuck it or is there a way you can learn from it or create something different but still interesting?

My advice for you, go down that road.

Break out of your rut

The thing about being stuck in a creative rut is that you can’t break out of doing what you’ve always done, it’s really hard to do something new, you just keep doing what you know how to do.

So the good thing about a mistake is that you didn’t mean to do it. If you knew you were going to do it, you would have avoided doing it.

So instead of thinking that this mistake is some piece of trash to throw away, think about how you can keep working on it and make it something beautiful or useful.

With my photos I definitely didn’t get the style I had expected or was looking for, but I kept working with them and found something that I liked, that was still worth keeping and showing to others.

Maybe you’re a graphic designer working with something in Photoshop, you know that there’s a million ways to do even simple stuff. So what if you screw up when you applied an effect to the path you just drew. Is that effect cool-looking, that you could use it somewhere else?

Or you’re a video creator, you stumbled when you were taking a shot. Can you turn that jittery motion into a transition to the next shot?

If you’re doing client work, you don’t necessarily have the time right then to pursue a unique style or method; save it for later, save it in Dropbox or on a flash drive, and come back to it. Don’t lose the opportunity to find a new path.

Obviously there’s some mistakes that are just plain mistakes. Like you’re a coder and you messed up the syntax in a script and it fails. That’s something that you need to just fix. But, if you wrote your script in some wacky unconventional way, is that new way faster or better? If not in that situation, then possibly in a different application. 

And if you’re wondering why I’m talking about computer programming on a creativity podcast, programming is all about creative problem-solving and finding elegant and unique solutions. A concise, well-written program is a beautiful thing.

Wrap up

So, in the end, I’m glad in the end that I messed up the white balance in my pictures; I ended up with something more interesting than if I hadn’t screwed up, and now I’ll be thinking a little more about how to use white balance for effect, either when shooting or in editing. It was a good afternoon’s learning.


  • I’d love to hear your feedback, what’s a mistake that led you to something really cool in your creative field?
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  • I want the podcast to enable you to do your best creative work, so if something’s not working for you I want to fix it

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I’m Dylan, helping you break down your creative barriers, so you can Live Life Creative.

Episode art for LLC002

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