Up until this month’s discussion, I thought the meaning of “mistake” was fairly straightforward. Goodness knows, I’ve made my share of gaffs! Foot in mouth, stupid choices, you name it. I never realized before how many types of mistakes there are. So far on the blog, we’ve seen examples of:
- Near misses
- Risky moments
- Silver linings
- Regrettable choices
- Misfiring observations
I have another category to add: Faking It
One time when I was taking a belt test on my journey to black belt, my mind suddenly went blank. I was halfway through my kata (for the non-martial artist, this is something like a choreographed dance, performed individually and using very precise martial arts techniques), and I had no idea what my next move was supposed to be. There was only one correct next move.
A jumble of thoughts passed through my head in the blink of an eye. If I didn’t know the curriculum as prescribed by my school, then how could I possibly pass the test and reach my goal? I remembered the lesson my instructor had hammered at all of us regarding this very possibility. He’d said: “don’t stop; keep going; act as if your mistake is supposed to go that way.”
In other words, make it up. Fake it. But the trick to this, he’d said, was to be convincing. Don’t hesitate. Act as if what I was doing was actually correct. Don’t betray the mistake.
Well, that’s what I did. I made it up, and I pretended confidence. I hoped that my sensei was distracted, looking elsewhere. I was aware of the other testers beside me, and I tried not to stand out, by moving in the same direction they moved. When they finished, so did I (mercifully), and I even topped off my performance with an extra loud yell. My sensei was staring me straight in the eyes. He smiled, and said, “That was interesting.”
To my great surprise, I passed the test.
The lesson I learned is something we can also apply to fiction writing. This is a gig where we have to make up a lot of stuff on a regular basis, not just for the occasional flubbing of a karate belt test. We can fake it, as long as we suspend disbelief. If we convince our readers, the rest doesn’t matter. It’s a story, after all, and it better be good!