Prepare To Be Wrong

As I scrolled through my blog reader last night, I stumbled across a simple pic post on Pearls Before Swine. I loved it so much I stole the title (hope you don’t mind, Yecheilyah). Go check out her blog as a thank you.

Below is the pic from the post.

prepare to be wrong

It gave me one of those whoa moments, you know?

I used to never take risks. Never. I was one of those kids who had everything in order, always got straight A’s, and did everything by the book. I figured out quickly what was expected of me and did that, which made my teachers and bosses happy, and sometimes I’d do something that made me stand out a little.

And I mean a little.

Why was I so resistant to doing anything risky? To put myself out there?

Because when you step out of the box, you open yourself up to criticism. You place yourself in a position to be wrong.

I talked about this some from an author’s standpoint in this post. There are set “rules” when it comes to writing fiction (or doing anything creative, really). People come to expect certain elements from art. If you go too far outside those lines, there is push back. Criticism. Bad reviews.

People will say you did it wrong.

But there are two sides to every coin, right?

I read a quote once that says there are only twelve basic story ideas, and every new story that’s written is a retelling of one of those. New authors are advised not to strive for a truly original idea, because that will result in paralyzing writer’s block.

That may be true, but there are a million original ways to tell those stories, if you will.

The story of an orphan becoming the chosen one to fight evil isn’t original (Star Wars, anyone?), but twenty years ago, putting him in a wizard school was.

A competition where contestants fight to the death isn’t original (it’s very similar to a Japanese story), but having teenagers do it as an extreme form of reality TV was.

A story featuring an immortal vampire isn’t original, but having him sparkle and engage in a codependent relationship with a teenage girl was.

These examples have haters. Loud haters. Readers who told the authors they were wrong to write these stories in those ways. Yet the original storylines were so widely loved and accepted by the majority that they each resulted in movies based on them several times over.

Don’t fear being wrong. In fact, I’ll save you the suspense: if you go outside the box enough to do something creative, even if it isn’t wholly “original”, some people will say you did it wrong. But remember, stories that have the power to cause negative reactions also have the power to cause positive ones. And from what I’ve seen, more people than not appreciate an original story. The safe, middle-of-the-road stories are the ones that languish, because they don’t offer anything to talk about.

So prepare to be wrong, and dare to be original.


26 thoughts on “Prepare To Be Wrong

  1. Pingback: What Did You Like? 2016 In Review | Allison Maruska

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  3. I’m a great fan of Ken Robinson, and that quote is a great one. Prepare to be wrong, and dare to be original; or maybe the other way round. Most of all dare to be yourself and not follow the pack. Thank you for the reminder. I needed it right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What can I possibly say that everyone else hasn’t? This is something you do well–being original that is. I can say without spoilers that as I read your books I have found your originality refreshing. I was happy to be wrong when trying to guess where the story would go next. That is not something I have been able to say about an author in a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good Day to You Allison,

    You are so right!

    Most of the time when my friends ask me how my website is doing, after I try to explain, they say, “It’s good that you have something to keep you busy after retirement.”

    Glad you’re “keeping busy” as well!

    My Best to You

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment reminds me of that saying that’s been going around on Facebook (which should be attributed to Stephen McCranie, upon further investigation) – “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Or alternately the Edison quote – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Maybe seeing “being wrong” or “failing” as a given, a part of the journey, we’ll be more open to originality and taking risks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I find this is critical information when thinking about homeschooling, which is looking more and more like what my two eldest want to do. I was reflecting on how they would like to learn to cook. That requires messes and mistakes I have to learn to be willing to let them make. Trial and error for all of us!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. “stories that have the power to cause negative reactions also have the power to cause positive ones”

    You know what else?

    Stories that don’t have the power to cause negative reactions probably don’t have much power to cause any positive ones, either. Great writing isn’t safe. Safe writing is dull. Nobody wants to read dull.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I look at writing like Jazz. We hear a riff then repeat it in our own voice and our own way.

        Once in a writing class, some snot accused another writer of being “derivative”. At that point, I heard another writer mutter under her breath, “it’s why I loved it”

        Liked by 3 people

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