Regret is a big part of being an artist. Everyone looks back and thinks to themselves, “What if I had just worked a little harder when I younger?” or “Why did I abandon that project when I was almost done?” or “Why in the world did I spend so much time on those things that sucked?”
It comes with the territory when you are always try to improve and top the last thing you did or make up for lost time. One thing we tell ourselves, though, is to not look back, that these “What if?” questions and so called creative failures are only going to make us feel worse and we need to only look to the future.
But what if we did spend some time focusing on those what if’s and creative failures? Could that actually be good for us?
If you think you have the stomach to look at all of your perceived failures over the last year or five years or couple decades, then try your hand at reimagining what could have been. Essentially, write fan fiction about yourself, the self who worked ten times harder and made every right decision. What will you find out?
Well, one thing you may notice is that what you are telling yourself to do five years ago is what you need to be telling yourself to do right now. Hindsight is 20/20, and if we take all of our good advice for who we were yesterday and focus it towards who we are today, then we may be able to make some changes we’ve needed to make all along.
Also, by pinpointing all of those other ways it could have gone, you’ll realize how much smarter and more capable you are now. Sure, it would have been great if all those pieces had fallen into place and you were now rich, famous and critically acclaimed. But instead you’re now in a position where you can see all of those mistakes and for that you should be incredibly grateful.
And this isn’t just wishes and dreams and wistful memories — imagining how something could have gone is called counterfactual thinking and studies show that even just imagining a different route your life could have taken will help fuel your creativity.
So not only will you feel better, but you’ll be even more prepared to take on the future.