Allison's Book Bag

On Making Mistakes, Guest Post by Brian Lies

Posted on: November 7, 2014

Brian Lies Guest PostBrian Lies is the author of the NY Times bestselling bat series. It has won numerous awards and has been seen in unusual places, such as on Martha Stewart’s TV show, where she called Bats at the Library “a good thing.”  Lies has written and or illustrated more than two dozen books, and has created many hundreds of illustrations for magazines and newspapers, both for children and adults.

Lies visits schools around the country to work with young writers. At the 2014 Plum Creek Literary Festival earlier this month, Brian Lies talked about letting kids know it’s okay to make mistakes and informing them that authors/illustrators have to work hard at their craft to make a publishable book. He graciously sent me a guest post on this inspiring topic.

On Making Mistakes—Some Suggestions for Young Writers
Guest Post by Brian Lies

We’re human. We all make mistakes. When I was a boy, though, I didn’t realize that. I thought that grownups were all accomplished and competent, and that the confidence I thought I saw in them was a direct result of their being so good at their jobs. . . . and at life.

Ha!

As a grownup, I’ve learned that most of us are faking it. We’re doing our very best, but that “adult confidence” doesn’t automatically come with being good at something. Everybody has doubts. I know some amazing writers who aren’t really sure their stories are any good! My mother, who retired after 35 years as a state-award-winning high school English teacher, says that every week, she would approach her classroom door and think, “Today they’re going to discover I’m a fraud.”

It might be scary to think that grownups aren’t always confident. But if grownups care about what they’re doing, and are doing their very best to do it well, isn’t that what’s important? I prefer the idea that most people are trying very hard, because it allows me to forgive others when they mess up, and it allows me to forgive myself a little easier, too.

As an author and illustrator of more than two dozen children’s books, my process of writing and illustrating is all about making mistakes, and then reacting to them. That nose is too long. This sentence sounds clunky when I read it. There’s not enough going on in this illustration—I need to add more details.

The act of walking is really about repeatedly starting to fall forward, and then catching yourself with the other foot (think about it—it’s true!). And writing and illustrating a story is kind of like that. It’s about first getting something on the page, whether it’s words or pictures, then figuring out what’s wrong with it. . . and then trying to catch those misteaks, and making it better. Step by step. I often rewrite my stories 24 times before I’m really happy with them.

In my family, we try to not beat ourselves up over mistakes. We won’t be perfect, but if we keep practicing, we will be better than when we first tried! As a boy, I thought that good writers got their stories right the first time. And I thought that because I had to rewrite my stories, it meant I was a bad writer. I hadn’t gotten the story right, and my teacher was telling me so. But what my teacher was really saying was that I was a real writer. All writers have to practice their stories to make them better.

Do you have a favorite story that you like to tell friends, about something that happened to you once? When you’ve shared it with someone who hasn’t heard it before, have you ever added new details that you didn’t remember the first time you told the story, such as what that other person said, or how his face looked? That’s what editing or revising a story is about. You have something you want to say and you can just blurt it out, but it’s really the rewriting—and rewriting—where a story idea turns into a GOOD story.

So if you want to be a writer, don’t worry that your story isn’t perfect when you first try to write it. Practice makes . . . better.

Good luck with your stories!

P.S. Can you find the word I spelled wrong on purpose in this blog post?

Social Media:
web: www.brianlies.com
Facebook: Brian Lies
FB fan page: Bats in the Band
Twitter: @BrianLiesbooks

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4 Responses to "On Making Mistakes, Guest Post by Brian Lies"

This is SO what I needed to read right now. Thanks for the great post, and please keep writing!

Brian Lies was very gracious about accepting my request to write about this topic. I’m glad his post was encouraging to you!

Good advice for young writers! It’s also good advice regarding life for all of us.

I didn’t notice the word that was purposely spelled incorrectly when I read the post but did find it when I reread the post looking for it.

After hearing Brian Lies’ presentation at Plum Creek, I thanked him for his inspirational talk. Even as an adult, I’m still learning that mistakes are okay to make. Also, as a teacher, I see so many students struggle to accept this truth.

Same here. It took me two reads to see the purposely-misspelled word. 🙂

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