The Magic Of Making A Mess

Laura Gale - Blog

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on building a garden out the back of my apartment.

The space is surrounded by high stone walls, and there’s a lawn and flower beds and a terrace. The walls are painted pink, and there are climbing vines creeping over the top from the neighbour’s yard.

It sounds idyllic, but honestly, most of the charm is still in my imagination right now.

When we moved in a few months ago, the lawn was concrete, the flower beds were a mass of weeds, and the paint on the stone walls was peeling so badly there were mounds of pink debris piled up all over the yard.

But enthusiasm goes a long way, and once the concrete was gone, Boyfriend and I hurled ourselves into the fray. We planted turf, tore out stinging nettles, built a shed and and hauled the trash away.

It’s coming along, and on the whole, we had the right ideas. But we got a lot wrong too.

Mostly, we made mistakes of ambition.

We laid our turf in the fall, excited to watch it thrive… and then it started fail, because we were too excited about its growth to cut it when we should have (about half of it died after getting too tall and flopping over like a bad toupee).

We decided to build the shed on our own, even though neither of us have any construction experience (that 2-to-4 hour build time estimate on the instructions? Yeah… try 4 days).

We massively underestimated how much time it would take us to put up fences around the lawn to stop our soon-to-arrive pup falling off a 7-foot wall (I like to think I can curse with the best of ’em but Boyfriend spat some corkers that day).

In short, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

Last week one of my new team members asked me if I was learning anything about writing from all this gardening work.

And I think what I’ve learned, again, is this:

All creative, generative processes are full of unknowns.

You can’t know everything that’s going to happen, because the thing you’re working on doesn’t exist yet.

It’s all in your imagination, and it’s inevitable that there are going to be some tangles when you try to turn that magic into something real.

Business is like this, writing is like this, life is like this — it’s how you deal with those unknowns that determine how well you do.

There are going to be unknowns no matter what you aim for, so you might as well aim for something awesome.

Letting something good run past its natural end point? That’s how you learn objectivity and boundaries.

Stretching yourself to achieve something a bit beyond your reach? That’s how you master your craft.

Taking on too much work in too short a window? That’s how you learn to predict your output and allocate your time.

I’ll never be mad about mistakes of ambition.

But you don’t need to discover all the unknowns yourself.

There’s just too much experience and expertise in the world for that.

Get yourself into a mastermind with other people at your level in your industry, to help each other out and stay accountable.

Get a coach or a mentor who has seen the unknowns before.

Go to industry events and listen intently to the people you look up to.

Listen to podcasts, read books, and reverse engineer what those people did to get those results, then practice, practice, practice.

Don’t be scared to make mistakes of ambition. That’s the way the magic happens.