Many of us worry too much that we may have taken the wrong turning in life and ended up where we didn’t intend to be. We have the same concerns for our sometimes wayward children and friends. We fret that unless they stay on the correct path, they will end up somewhere bad. Sometimes that fear is founded, but sometimes it isn’t.
When we create art, sometimes we get so worried about drawing the wrong line, applying the wrong colour, playing the wrong chord, or writing the wrong phrase, that we experience a sort of intense paralysis brought about by our fear of getting it wrong, irrevocably destroying the artwork and our entire artistic reputation (such as it is) forever.
When I was on vacation recently, I was following the instructions of the satellite navigation gadget to get to a friend’s house that lived out in the countryside. I hadn’t been to the house much and only in the semi darkness, so I didn’t know the area well at all. Our satellite navigation gadget is old and has seldom been updated, so it has the amusing characteristic of offering you audible directions that can lead you astray. On one occasion, it tried to get me to make a 160 degree turning, across a dual carriageway with an unrestricted speed limit. That kind of thing is suicidal, so you have to be vigilant for hokey audio instructions issued nonchalantly from the thing.
This particular day, the sun was shining and we were making good time, so my guard was down. “Take the next right”, came the stern assertion. Thinking to myself that it must mean the next right hand turning, I hit the anchors and slowed down enough to safely make the right hand turn. Only after having made the turn did I realise that it meant the next right hand turning, not this right hand turning. I had taken a wrong turn.
There aren’t many roads in that part of the countryside, so the satellite navigation gadget began its route recalculation routine. During this time, the only option I had, being unable to turn around on this tiny country lane, was to continue going forwards, mumbling under my breath about stupid sat navs and silently berating myself for being caught out by the stupid sat nav yet again. I had no idea what to expect up ahead and was completely, though only momentarily, lost.
Then it happened.
In the near distance we saw something that none of us had ever seen before in our lives. We saw a wild white stag, accompanied by two brown does, galloping across the fields. He was a magnificent and rare fellow, with huge, authoritative antlers. A white stag is quite a rare sight anyway, but to see one in full flight, in brilliant sunshine, in the open, at relatively close quarters, with an uninterrupted view, was a sight to behold indeed. Our cameras were not close enough to hand to capture the scene, unfortunately.
The point is that had I not made the wrong turning, we would never have seen something this rare and beautiful. If we had been pre-occupied entirely with getting back to the correct road, we might have missed it too. Instead, we accepted that we were lost and went forward, in the hope that we would find the way. Our reward was something we shall remember always.
We did find the route back to my friend’s house after a few minutes and arrived barely later than we had originally planned, but so much the richer for taking the wrong road. If you find yourself on the wrong road, look around and see if there is anything worth seeing anyway. Also, never fear taking a wrong turning, if don’t know for certain that the route you planned is better than the route you accidentally find yourself on.
In art, as in life, sometimes it pays to be a little lost and trust your instincts and techniques to get you back to your destination, but learning a lot along the accidental way.
Sometimes, being lost is the best way to make a discovery.