Time Travel & Mistakes–Would We Change the Past? Should We?

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There are days I feel so enlightened, so mature…and then I think back *head desk*. Have you ever wanted to take a DeLorean back in time to kick your own @$$? Sometimes it’s nice to realize how much I’ve grown, but then I remember how much dumb stuff I’ve done…

…and I just want to use Space-Time White-Out.

I think about how poorly I reacted to certain trials, how I acted like a total jerk, how I could only see what I wanted. Yet, as much as I’d love to go back in time and change things, I know the only reason I’m better is I did a LOT of stuff wrong.

I like to blog about writing, namely because I want writers (especially the newbies) to know you are not alone. We all make a lot of the same mistakes. We all think adverbs and flashbacks are AWESOME in the beginning. The oopses are part of the learning curve.

Fear of Failure

I recall as early as four years ago being SO terrified of failure, of making a mistake. I thought I had to be perfect at everything. Yet, the weird thing is that as long as I thought I had to be perfect, I engaged in activities that assured I “never made a mistake.” I stayed in the comfort zone where I could “look good.”

But I stagnated. For the record, anything that stagnates, eventually rots and stinks.

Life In Forward Gear

One thing many of us struggle with is we can only see where we went wrong. Ask any of us to name our faults, and we can answer in essay form. But ask us what we are good at? Where we shine? It takes a minute…or a few days.

We can fall into this nasty habit of nitpicking and only looking at where we screwed up, or where we could have done better. The danger of this is that life moves forward. If we try to live a life that moves forward being guided by a rearview mirror, it’s only a matter of time until we crash.

We can’t accurately see ahead (our future) if we’re always looking back.

Be Careful Where You Focus

I’ve talked about this example before, but it’s a powerful one. My first fiction project involved a story set in Monte Carlo at the Formula One. To do research, I became friends with a lot of people in Ferrarri Racing.

One of the strangest lessons I ever heard was that drivers, who are going at mind-blowing speeds around twisting, winding roads, are always in danger of hitting the wall. But, to avoid hitting the wall, they must train themselves to NEVER LOOK at the wall. Why? Because the car goes where they eyes go.

If all we look at is where we fall short, what mistakes we’ve made, we shouldn’t be shocked when we just do the same dumb stuff over and over. We’re far wiser to make a list of what we do correctly, what we do well and focus on that, instead.

Gain a Habit of ALWAYS Phrasing Things in the Positive

The human mind cannot tell the difference between truth and lie. Just this morning, I caught myself saying, “Oh, Kristen, you are just so disorganized.” I stopped myself and said, “Kristen, you aren’t where you want to be, but look how far you’ve come. You are getting better organized each and every day.”

Instead of:

I just know I’m going to forget my keys.

I say:

Kristen, remember you put your keys here.

I find I do MUCH better when I speak in positive terms. Much of our growth will come when we change our relationship with failure and mistakes. In fact, yesterday, it hit me:

Mistakes can refine us or define us.

I will be the first to admit I have done a lot of things wrong. And, unless I pay for cryogenic stasis, odds are I will do even more stuff wrong so all of you have been forewarned :D. But my attitude is, if we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.

There was a time when all I could see was the high school drop out (yes, I dropped out TWICE), the person who lost her keys, who didn’t balance her checkbook, who didn’t have this or do that. But that’s wasted energy.

I goof. We all do.

And screwing up is one of life’s greatest teachers. I learned to ride a bike by falling off a BUNCH of times. This doesn’t change in life.

Sure, I’d be tempted to go back in time if I could and change some things, but then again?

Nah. I’m good.

What about you? Do you find you beat yourself up too much? Do you struggle with fear of failure? Is it hard for you to admit what you do correctly? Are you quicker to point out your flaws than your strengths? Do you think about what life might have been like if you’d “done things right”? Would you go back and change things if you could?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. I once played my harp for a wedding and was having an off day. While I’m never perfect, especially under the pressure of playing for a couple’s big day, I completely butchered Pachelbel’s Canon. I got so lost, that I had to start again from the beginning while the bride only half way to the altar. I was so mortified. When I was going to apologize and even ask if they wanted a refund, the bride spoke first and thanked me profusely for my “beautiful music.”

    I just shut my mouth and vowed to work harder on Pachelbel. 🙂

    1. That’s a funny quirk about anything performed– 99% of the time, the audience hasn’t read your script/sheet music. They don’t know if you fudged a line or messed up a note. As long as you look confident and keep going, most people will assume you meant to do that.

  2. For all its naysayers, I’m very fond of Nanowrimo for that reason. For me, like a lot of people, it forced me to stop focusing on everything I needed to fix in my story, and focus instead about getting it written. It’s so much easier to fix something that’s not quite right than to instantly create something absolutely perfect.

    • TLJeffcoat on April 19, 2013 at 11:17 am
    • Reply

    What is this? I suddenly feel inspired. How dare you, I was going to take the day off. Guess not. I’m not really complaining, this is a thank you.

  3. I find that I second-guess my decisions a lot. Writing being the solitary act that it is, you can’t blame a bad day of work on your boss or your colleagues… But if I’d “done things right” I would probably be chasing the almighty dollar instead of the almighty story. Looking back, I’d choose the story every time.

  4. Awesomeness! You know this is one of my favorite topics. 🙂 Would I go back and change something? As much as a couple of events tempt me, I can’t help but see that I am who I am today because of those events. They make for good writing fodder, too.

  5. I’ve worked very hard to regain the ease of writing I experienced prior to my stroke. I still struggle so, sometimes, and the edits I must do when my right hand tires of typing correctly discourage me – but lo and behold, while quickly changing some small paragraph for a client on their website, what should happen but praise and compliments – – “How do you write so beautifully, on such short notice? That’s exactly what I wanted to convey, but wasn’t sure how to say it.”
    Gives me the encouragement I need to continue to work towards where I think I used to be, in terms of writing!

  6. Another spot-on blog! I can relate to everything you’ve said. You gave us several quotable quotes to copy and paste on our computers or bulletin boards. I love inspirational quotes! You inspire.

    On another note, how do you write such incredible blog posts, do critiques, give classes, take care of a family and still have time to write a novel? Inquiring minds want to know your organizational secrets. (Giving up sleep is not a viable option.) Blog it for us.

    1. I live in pajamas and rarely change so it’s less laundry to do. I no longer wear makeup and my hair is in a scrunchee at all times (unless I am at a conference). I’ve given up having clean closets, organized drawers and a garage that isn’t booby-trapped. My Christmas tree (now a Bogan Tree) is STILL up. I eat at my desk and use a crock pot for all meals. I haven’t been to a movie since last year or a mall since Christmas.

      I love what I do, so it helps a lot. Also, I’ve been blogging since 2005, so practice makes you a lot faster. I teach classes, but I have wonderful students who give me a lot of grace. There are also wonderful WANAs who help me. Laura Ritchie volunteers to upload my blogs for SocialIn and she cleans out my spam, because she is a total angel.

      I’ve just learned to focus on what I love, and forget the other stuff. Who cares if my Christmas tree is still up? I don’t. I’ve learned to “un-see” and that helps A LOT. I just count myself super-prepared for Christmas 2013 :D.

  7. I write time travel, and boy do my characters screw things up in the past! So yes, this is something I think about a lot. I think about people I was unkind to and would be tempted to undo that if I could, but I’d be afraid I’d change something major. I also wish I’d indie-published a year before I did, but I probably learned stuff that last year that I really neeeded to know before publishing.

    • SweetSong on April 19, 2013 at 11:48 am
    • Reply

    I envy your ability to turn a phrase: “if we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.” I love it!

  8. Positive self-talk is always a motivator. I’ve recently begun blogging and it’s been a great exercise outside my comfort zone. Good responses so far though.

    • Carol Newquist on April 19, 2013 at 12:14 pm
    • Reply

    I wouldn’t go back, because I don’t want to change a thing. Okay, maybe one thing. I’d go back about twenty-five years and win the $350 million lottery jackpot, but nothing other than that.

    My first auto accident? Wouldn’t change a thing about it. I learned a great deal from the experience, like multitasking. I mastered the skill of looking at beautiful women and watching the road concomitantly. The Popma twins did their part in helping me become a more skilled driver without sacrificing my ogling.

  9. Been subscribing for over a year now, and fianlly have started a blog.But I never stick with things i start because of this very thing- fear. So, now fear, what ever, it’s fake, not real, it ties me down. So now I can say I may not write daily, but I’m writing more than I used to.

  10. I actually wouldn’t change anything, maybe one or two embarrassing moments and I’d like to see where the other path would have taken me at certain crossroads, oh, and perhaps I should have been writing more today instead of getting hooked on reading some very interesting blogs.

  11. We are a product of our environment and our experiences. Take something away and we are no longer who we used to be. Mistakes are the hammer on the anvil of life. Good steel needs to be hammered repeatedly.

    1. This is a good point. Mind if I tweet part of this?

      1. Be my guest. I’m also at @langledd.

  12. Loved the post Kristen and your wall metaphor was wonderful. I use shooting pool. If you want to sink the shot, you have to look at pocket, not the balls. For me, the moment I stop making mistakes is the moment I stop learning. Then, I might as well be dead.

  13. I don’t think it’s an easy lesson to learn, but ultimately I wouldn’t go back because it’s all about the journey. That’s what makes the success feel so good. Gonna practice that positivity peace some more now that I have some better focus.

  14. There’s plenty I wish I hadn’t done – as a writer, as a person. Yes, you live and learn, but if only I did not do what I did or said in order to grow. Some mistakes you can embrace, while some make you want to hide forever.

  15. I do this all the time. I’m very quick to focus on the negative, especially when it’s about something specific to me.
    As for changing the past, I’m not sure that I would. I think I want certain things different, but they’re usually big things so lots of things would probably change. If the only thing that changed was the specific outcome of one thing, then maybe, but that’s not how Space-Time works, I hear.

  16. My most recent self talk… “you should try being an optimist even though it probably won’t work”
    So this will be a good habit for me. “Gain a Habit of ALWAYS Phrasing Things in the Positive”

  17. Time travel? Change my past? Never. Mistakes and their consequences are part of who I am. So I acknowledge them, live with them, learn from them, put them into perspective, and move on. I love the journey. And the people I’ve met along the way (both, in person and on paper.)
    Most, like you, have been truly inspiring.
    Thanks for this post.

  18. Time travel? Change my past? Never. Mistakes and their consequences are part of who I am. So I acknowledge them, live with them, learn from them, put them into perspective, and move on. I love the journey. And the people I’ve met along the way (both, in person and on paper.)
    Most, like you, have been truly inspiring.
    Thanks for this post.

  19. I remember always complaining to one friend about another until she asked me why I was even friends with that person. I realized my pattern immediately when I remembered all the good things. I made a choice to say good things and a few months later she remarked that she’d love to hang out with the same person. It was amazing. Now if that applies to someone else, how much more does it apply to ourselves?

  20. LOL! Except of course l can never remember where l put thekeys 🙂 The children assure me the best way to NEVER see something again is to have me (Mom) put it someplace “safe”. Still l try to phrase even that in positive terms… that it is just part of beng a lovely eclectic artistic soul. (the kids laugh) So l lose keys. There are spares. Enjoying life too much too be distracted by the little things.

    Always looking forward to the day my writing is ‘worthy’ of my hopes and dreams… and published.

  21. I’ve pretty well winged it through life, plenty of mistakes and lot’s of lessons. My favourite saying was ‘If you can’t blind ’em with science then baffle ’em with bullsh&t. Right now I’m the end result of the good and the not so good. Regrets? You bet, things I’d change? Yes, only one, things that were done to me as a child that I had no control over. The rest is all down to me, although it would be good to go back and tell my ignorant self that when a lovely young lady tickles the palm of your hand it means, YES!

  22. Thanks soooo much for sharing this powerful message- advice for both writing and for life. I “know” that if I’m not failing once in a while that I am not learning, either. But it is scary, it is hard to see how failing will possibly be a good thing. But my most exciting successes come when I challenge myself to try something totally new and different. Love the saying- “Don’t look back. You are not going that way.”

  23. Quick comment and I will re-read when more time permits. I just completed a Time Travel Romance novelette for submission and working on a Super Hero Romance novelette so I like writing about the science fiction, but I do not believe in going back to the past or to the future unless you can wait until tomorrow. The present is the only tangible location to go to and the past and future are listed on a calendar and if you did not know. There are several different calendars accepted in the world.

  24. Great piece your first sentence had me in stitches I am always joking about going back in time and kicking my own butt. Well at least most of the time I am joking 😛 I also really liked paragraph on phrasing things in the positive. Thanks you for sharing.

  25. Oh Kristen, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I soooo needed this blog.

    1. We all do, Hon, LOL. I have to remind myself of the same stuff every day :).

  26. Beating myself up RIGHT NOW. Wondering if being an author is even worth it especially with social media minefields and cyberbullies…

  27. I’ve always been a naturally self-depreciating person. When I was a kid I was genuinely smart and talented, pretty and likable, but I couldn’t see that myself unless other people were constantly reinforcing it for me. Without that reinforcement I would slip back into “oh my got this/I/everything sucks HORRIBLY” mode. I continued to do that my entire life. I still do it, though to a lesser extent.

    And yet somehow I’ve ended up with a wonderful husband, a beautiful daughter, and a great job that has allowed us to be THIS close to being debt-free by the time we’re 31.

    So I try, I look at what I have and what I’ve accomplished, and I try to use that as a way of fighting back against the voice that tells me my writing stinks, I’ll never be skinny again, I’m a lazy bint, and so on and so on. It’s tough, and sometimes I seriously think I need some meds to help, but it works, if only a little. 🙂

  28. Accentuate the positive! It is so human to focus on the negative (in ourselves, others, the world) and it’s time we realized that attitude has more to do with success than most other things.
    Thanks for the encouraging post.

  29. Your post was delivered to my desk this morning – the morning after a dinner party where I practiced pitching my latest novel to perfect strangers to prepare for some agent appointments I have next week. I CHOKED. So, needless to say my mind was full of negative internal dialog when your article reached my desk. I needed to hear this so bad today. Thank you so much!!

  30. Thank you for this reinforcement! I’m a perfectionist and put waaay to much pressure on myself. I was speaking to someone recently about failure. They explained that failing wasn’t about that – making a mistake and screwing something up – but it was a learning process. We learn something we didn’t know before. That way of thinking changed my whole paradigm, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Kind of makes me want to embrace failure.

  31. The trend in E-books is the sub-genre writing such as “paranormal” and “urban fantasy”. It is probably because the Internet users are a different consumer than the shopper at a grocery store shopping for food and decided to grab a paperback instead of a magazine with celebrities on the cover. But “time travel” would probably be good also for the E-book readers. I put off writing my paranormal and I decided to complete a super hero romance for April. My paranormal, I want to develop into a full-length novel for traditional markets instead of a novelette for E-books. A suspense thriller of a psychic ordered to find a woman who knew too much and a romance happened so the two are being sought by corrupt people in government seemed like a full-length novel.

    I would not use time travel to go back and change my life. I have goals today and I want to carry them out as best as I can. Typewriters and typewriter ribbons were the excuse not to type out the novel and then the word count since I had a home computer to store the novel instead wasting ribbons and typing papers. Today, I simply have to type it when I can. And the more I learn about Social Media and what is out there, I know that the marketplace will continue for writers because there will always be readers. I have to write what the readers of the electronic age are looking for and it is the reason that I am trying to learn the sub-genres or just write it and find my on-line readers using Social Media techniques to sell what I like to write.

  32. OK, here is my epic fail. Sent out invoices for my book with no invoice numbers and no date.

    And I am an accountant!!

    1. LOL. That so sounds like me. Or when you mail in your bills, but put them in the wrong return envelopes, so no addresses aren’t visible thru the little window…and the post office RETURNS them and all the bills are late and ur out stamps? Yeah…

  33. I learned about that positive self talk thing a few years back, but now I just beat myself up for all my negative self talk. ‘Oh you’re stupid for calling yourself stupid, don’t you know it’s bad for you?!’ But I’m working on it…

    • Christie B. on April 20, 2013 at 7:15 am
    • Reply

    An amazing blogger AND a F1 fan!
    Kristen, you just keep getting better!!

    Thanks for the advice! I’m keeping my eyes off the walls!

  34. Hi Kristen – I am just finding your blog as I’m new to the blogging world. I’m loving it! Thanks for the wonderful advice. Learning how to manage my dream of writing full-time while buried in my other career is challenging. Your insight is very helpful!!

  35. Hmm. Yeah, pretty much all of that. It’s always fun too when someone kicks your “platform” right out from under you. I like the unsee thing; I know a few folks that are experts at that; I still have the training wheels on. I sent my first piece to a creative writing professor in 1967… I’m a little slow. Hoping this year I can get something out the door. (Guys apparently don’t commiserate quite as much as the ladies.) Write On.

  36. I had a horrible time from 1-10 grade. I thought about what I would do different if I went back and relived it with my current mind. I thought: Oh, I’d be awesome at math! I would have so much time to write! I’d play around, I’d make sure the people liked me since I now understand what I did wrong.
    Then I also realized: I wouldn’t make the same friends. Or any friends at all. No grownups would be friends with a kid and the kids would find me weird. I wouldn’t be able to connect with my friends since we went through crap TOGETHER.
    That whole thought sparked my current novel 😀

  37. What a fabulous post! Thank you. The negative self-speak is so damaging and I hardly notice I’m doing it until I hear my kids speaking that way to themselves. Thank you for this reminder.

  38. Kristen, suppose we’re not writing a novel, maybe just articles. Will you critique them?

    1. Yes, you are still open for the contest. I can critique anything :D…and often do much to the disappointment of my husband. He forbids me to speak during movies. Go fig!

  39. I’m a firm believer our lives shape us, so I don’t go about thinking of past choices and fill myself with regret. There’s really only one thing I can even think I’d do differently.

  40. Kristen, my life is a series of ‘things done wrong.’

    And, I wouldn’t change a bit of it if it meant I wouldn’t be where I am today. Looking back causes me to stumble on the charge forward through life.

  41. Oh, my this is my biggest vice. And it’s not so much what I say out loud as it is what I say to myself…constant work in progress!

  42. Though I don’t post often, I do look forward to your posts.

    Today’s post was very well said! I’d like to think I’m a positive person…on everything but me. It’s one thing I try to break myself of, and the hardest thing to battle.

    All I have to say is…great post!

  43. I probably would jump on the time travel ship. What haunts me are the little things–a generous gesture that could have helped someone or a kind word I failed to utter. Mostly these missed opportunities are because I wasn’t aware of the need until later. Or I misunderstood the person or misread the situation. There are half a dozen small injuries (that loom large in my mind) I would go back and rectify if only I could.

    Maybe that’s why time travel as a fictional construct fascinates me. No surprise my novel features someone who made a monstrous choice that haunts her, and for which she must find a solution. Who says we can’t live vicariously through our characters?

    • Naomi on April 22, 2013 at 9:07 am
    • Reply

    There are some things I would love to go back and change, because I can see the damage that was done to other people and to myself. My version of changing the past is changing the future. I respond differently to things, reevaluate my desires to make sure they are filled with good motivations and I hope that over time I will continue to see myself in a better light because my actions define me as someone who is careful with others. By being careful with others, I take care of me too.

  44. Kristin, my husband is getting really tired of me saying, “this one time, on Kristin Lamb’s blog….”
    I seem to always be quoting you! I’m a Bible study teacher with a blog and I get so much inspiration from YOUR blog! “Never look at the wall” couldn’t have said it better myself! The more we focus on us and our shortcomings, the more those things manifest in it lives!

    1. LOL. Thanks. HUGE compliment ((HUGS))

    • Denise McInerney on April 23, 2013 at 10:28 am
    • Reply

    Great blog post! Hmm, there are a few things I’d go back and change, mostly opportunities I missed because I was too afraid to take a chance at the time. But then again, I learned valuable life lessons from that behavior. So maybe I wouldn’t go back after all. I now teach workshops on Improv Techniques for Writers, focused on squelching the pesky inner critic that darn near crippled my own writing. And I’m developing a blog of my own, partly based on the workshop. Your book, “Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer,” has been a tremendous help. Thank you, Kristen! You are always inspirational and give me the courage to wade ever-deeper into the social media waters.

    1. Awww, THANKS, Denise! *hugs*

  45. Sad to say, I often think about how things would’ve turned out different (not necessarily better) if i’d made different choices.
    Time Travel is a favorite topic of mine and I write about it often.

  46. I really love reading your blog posts 🙂 They’re always beautifully insightful.

    This one had me reliving the scene from Meet the Robinsons when they were celebrating failure. Best scene ever!

    Keep moving forward!

  1. […] Time Travel & Mistakes–Would We Change the Past? Should We?. […]

  2. […] lady Leanne Shirtliffe, who was supposed to be my FRIDAY guest post, was probably all WTH? when I wrote about wanting a DeLorean so I could go back in time and kick my own @$$ for being stupid instead of posting her seriously funny guest piece and talking about her on-line humor-writing […]

  3. […] Time Travel and Mistakes- Would We Change the Past? Should We? – Kristen Lamb explores the role of mistakes in our lives, how they shape us, and how to make the most of them. Oh, and my brother-in-law owns a Delorean. He bought it on Ebay. I’ve touched it. Seriously. […]

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