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A No Mistakes Philosophy...On And Off The Tile.

A No Mistakes Philosophy...On And Off The Tile.

Molly writes...

When someone asks me about the Zentangle Method, a few things come to mind. I usually talk about how it is a step by step approach to pattern drawing and then, depending on who I am talking to or what the circumstances are, I talk about some of the philosophy behind the method. Practicing Zentangle is the best way to understand these philosophies. I think every artist that practices Zentangle brings their own interpretation to its definition and that adds to the overall meaning. One of the most valuable and important aspects of the Zentangle philosophy for me is the “No Mistakes” philosophy. It took me years to understand fully what that meant for my practice. When we say there are no mistake in Zentangle, it is not intended to mean that there will never be an unintended stroke, spill, rip or a just plan “ugh”. What we mean is that when it does happen our reaction is not to react with disappointment, anger, or discouragement but rather to embrace it and see it as an opportunity.

This is a major shift in perspective that requires courage and trust. Once you trust and welcome that every stroke on your tile has purpose, beauty, and potential, you start to see your work differently. This can be hard at first. How can you say that what clearly appears to be a mess as potential beauty?

Well, sometimes, it takes time away from the work, sometimes it takes creative ideas for change and sometimes it takes a decision to go in a new direction. Once you open up your mind to this viewpoint you will also notice a new creative flow state. A creative flow state can only be achieved if there is nothing in its way. When an artist gets stuck on perfection, distracted by things that come out not as expected or if one places expectations on themselves that are so specific, you narrow down your success of finding a flow state in your creative process.

However, when you approach your work with openness and welcome all parts of your creative process, you start to understand their purpose and role in the bigger picture. If you believe that each stroke of your pen or mark of your pencil plays a role in all the marks that follow you start to see them differently. You see opportunity and potential. You learn to trust the creative process and embrace the humanness that makes it special. You can start to embrace how this new perspective allows you to focus on the present and then pushes you forward to the next step. Once you implement the “No Mistakes” philosophy in your artistic process you might start to see and feel it trickling into other parts of your life.

Today, we find ourselves in days of “uncertainty”. While this might be true, and this might be part of our reality, what if we took this opportunity to focus on some of the beautiful things that are emerging and all that we are grateful for. I, for one have found gratitude in the extra time at home. I have particularly enjoyed the extra snuggles with my children, discovering a new trail in the woods, spending extra time around the dinner table, working on a jigsaw puzzle, watching a movie, and drawing. I am also finding gratitude in just stopping to take a huge metaphorical breath. Sometimes the world seems to be moving so quickly, and there is so much focus on what is next that we forget to focus on where we are. These past few days, I have appreciated not having any plans. I believe and know that we will eventually return to our busy lives, but as for today I am feeling grateful for this opportunity to rest and recharge. I am trying to take note of how powerful this feeling is. I am feeling grateful for this opportunity to just take a break from it all … and knowing that I am not alone doing it. This experience will change a lot of things for a lot of people, and although there will be difficulties and challenges, there will no doubt will be beautiful things too. There will be discovery, renewal, and awesomeness …. You just have to look for it.

Updated: May 13, 2022...

It is no coincidence that many of the blogs that we are revisiting during Mental Health Awareness Month were written in the Spring of 2020. This was a time when we all were realizing just how important our mental health was. Molly's words from two years ago ring just as true today as they did then.

Updated: April 16, 2024...

One of the great things about celebrating Zentangle's 20th Anniversary is many times, we have already found the right words to say what we want to say, which is why we will be revisiting more of our older blogs this month. But, make no mistake, these thoughts are anything but outdated.

Molly Hollibaugh


  • Absolutely true, Molly!
    Our whole life is in this philosophy!
    Yes, we make mistakes in our lives, but they lead us to lessons… And.. they turn out to be for our good in the end!
    And…actually these are our new paths, not our mistakes…
    There is great wisdom in the motto – “No mistakes!”
    And… when we think about it, we feel not sad, but happy!
    Thanks to everyone in the family who opened the magic of zentangle to us!!!!!!

    Дафи on

  • I recently came across a quote on this same theme that grabbed me. In his book, Everybody Always (p. 77), author Bob Goff stated, “Everyone hits a couple of wrong notes now and again; just keep playing your song.” I liked that.

    Linda Dochter on

  • I remember reading this blog shortly after I discovered Zentangle during the Covid shut down. . . “No Mistakes” didn’t make sense to me at the time. I love the qualifying statements that say that , yes, we may make a mark that was unplanned, but we can choose to look at it as an opportunity to go another direction. I embraced that concept in my art, but I didn’t realize until 2 years later what that concept meant in my personal life. . . In January of 2023, my daughter discovered that she had uterine cancer. . .Instead of being overwhelmed, we were able to face that one step at a time, just as we had embraced the one stroke at a time. . . In July of 2023, I discovered that I too had uterine cancer. . . An unusual calm went over me. We had gone through so much already, this was one more event that we could deal with one stroke at a time, knowing that there are no mistakes, just opportunities! Thank you for contributing to my MENTAL HEALTH throughout the year, not just in May! May the Lord Bless you all!

    LLS on

  • “No mistakes” is so freeing! I used to be such a “pencil” person so that I could erase or change something. Now I embrace the “ink” and reflect on the fact that there are “no do overs in life.” I find the Zentangle philosophy a bridge to coping skills in my everyday life.

    Jeanne on

  • It has taught me to stay inspired, which is the most valuable and difficult thing for me to achieve.

    Great evolutionary leaps are emotional and energetic
    I take everything glups as a creative act so I will find my own voice and as I grow, my project, my inner artist, grows and evolves.

    carmela on

  • 没有错误, 是自由的迸发,是思绪的飞扬,是多维自我的遇见,和更好的自己越来越近。

    蓝 on

  • First of all I must say, I have found the greatest peace from learning zentangle art! About seven or so years ago, I began a very personal journey. Feeling stuck in my life, and attempting to find my purpose, I started down an uncertain path to become a jewelry artist. I threw myself into my art with no boundaries. Becoming obsessed with patterns in nature and learning to use them in my jewelry, was my new found talent. I found an art gallery who took me on as an artist on consignment. Since then, I have enjoyed success and am very grateful and humbled for the experience. You could say, I fell in love with the beauty of everything in nature like never before. As much as I loved nature, I always wished I could find a way to draw what I saw. Fast forward to about a year ago, I began to see some zentangle art and it started a fire inside me. I had never really thought I was capable of drawing much of anything. I lacked the confidence and assumed that I just wasn’t talented in that area. I started following some artists and decided to give zentangle a try. It was like a bolt of lightning hit me! I was drawing patterns, and lines almost every day. I bought some art supplies to help me create vivid patterns; my creativity became like a faucet, constantly flowing! I don’t know exactly how zentangle art came into my life, but I am so thankful it did! Zentangle art made me fully believe in myself and allowed me to call myself a True Artist. Thank you for this Gift!

    Suz on

  • I think “No Mistakes” philosophy is very similar to our lives. What is done is done, we cannot redo, reverse, or delete our mistakes,
    we can only do our best to find a solution to fix it. As long as we are still alive, everyday minute is an opportunity for us to change, fix or rescue our mistakes.

    Skylar Kay on

  • Ordering project pack the Zentangle philosophy on this one..what’s not to love. I would hate to have to ever pick a favorite – I be lost in awe over and over. Thxs

    Jeb on

  • “No Mistakes” (along with “anything is possible one stroke at a time”) is the part of the Zentangle philosophy that I needed the most in my life! I was always a perfectionist and too scared to share what I had to offer for fear that it wasn’t good enough. I could never call myself an “artist,” afraid of people scoffing that I would dare, that my work could never earn that title. I still struggle sometimes- I’m still not perfect at accepting being imperfect. But the practice and philosophy of Zentangle have hugely contributed to my being comfortable being who I am, letting myself off the hook from both my own and others’ expectations of who I’m “supposed” to be. Embracing “No Mistakes” in my Zentangle practice has helped me develop my own style instead of trying to be someone else I can never be. One of my favorite things at CZT seminar was Rick having “oops” moments, but remaining calm about it and just moving forward. If it’s no big deal to Rick, as one of the founders, teaching nearly 100 CZTs-to-be, why should it be a big deal for little old me? Those moments were comforting to me, as a student in Rick’s class, which made me realize the same could be true for my students when I make “mistakes” – I’ll have the opportunity to give them permission to give up on the expectations of perfection from themselves. What a gift- on the tile and beyond!!

    Lizzie Gregory on

  • The “no mistakes” philosophy is what attracted me to Zentangle initially. I love how it takes a “not going to plan” moment and shows how it can create new opportunities that may not have been available if everything went to plan! It is a philosophy that I have adapted into my own life, and I even have the “no mistakes” silver bangle already and wear it regularly to remind me of the entire Zentangle philosophy beyond the art. I’ve said this many times to many people, but the Philosophy of Zentangle has changed my life. Sure, I love the drawing and the art aspect, but the slow down, any thing can happen one stroke at a time, no mistakes, and the other mantras have change my life permanently for the better. Thank you so much for all you at ZHQ do! <3<3

    Laura Beth Perelman on

  • No mistakes. Sounds interesting and weird at the same time. We are driven into certain limits by our enthusiasm, our way of life. It often seems to us that here I made a mistake, here I did something wrong. But the Zentangle technique gives us a perception of ourselves. The method “without errors” gives freedom of action. Do not be afraid of what will not work. You just need to take a step. If it leads to failure, it’s not a mistake, it’s an experience. This is an opportunity to take another step that will be more successful. And so, step by step, our life is worth. This is great! Thank you for everything!

    Elena on

  • I discovered Zentangle years ago but never did much with it except buys books and supplies and try out a tangle or two now and then until COVID shut everything down. I am retired and live alone but I have two wonderful daughters who took good care of me so that between them and buying things online I did OK. Except as the months dragged on with some days where I didn’t see another human being in the flesh anywhere I began to sink into the depression that runs in my family.

    One day I decided to watch one of the videos mostly to have someone talk to me! And to be distracted from my downward thoughts and emotions. It didn’t realize it right away but I started to have happier thoughts and look forward to the next video in the project pack series and by the time I was able to receive my first dose of the vaccine I was in a very positive world! I’ll never forget tangling up until the time that my daughters picked me up to take me to get that shot!
    You all have blessed the world more than you can possibly know by sharing with us the Zentangle method with it’s accompanying positive messages .. all of them are so very important! And I personally want to thank you for helping me through the past two years and setting me on such a positive course!

    Karen Wilson on

  • Honestly, I struggle so much with the idea of “No Mistakes.” So much so that it keeps me from even starting. I went out and bought a nice set of pens and a nice drawing pad to practice tangles, but Ive only put pen to paper a handful of times. When I made what I considered was a mistake, I got frustrated and discouraged. Its the kind of thing where I just want to be good at it right from the start. As I think about it, I might just have to put aside the pens and grab a pencil and an eraser. And work at a larger scale. And maybe, eventually, I can throw away the eraser and embrace the lines that take me in a new direction.

    Cathy on

  • So much of this written piece is inspirational and quotable, but these words are so true: “Once you implement the “No Mistakes” philosophy in your artistic process you might start to see and feel it trickling into other parts of your life.” THIS! To be present in the imperfect process of creativity/life and to be free to proceed without the pressure of perfection is a gift. Thank you for this post and for honoring Mental Health Awareness Month.

    Mari Coulter on

  • For me, “no mistakes” means to go ahead and finish. Often, that’s what I need to do for closure. It helps me own the outcome!

    Michelle on

  • Love the reminder to turn “ooops” into opportunity. Needed this reminder in my life right now with young adult children.

    Laurie Shetler on

  • To me the no mistakes philosophy serves to remind me to slow down or to re-align my focus in those times when I do create over extended or short falling lines, blatantly skewed or open orbs & specially misplaced lines that alter the pattern. Some of these are easily corrected or covered up; while other mishaps provide an opportunity to create something different from the intended pattern. This is a very freeing opportunity for expanding one’s creativity!

    M Greene on

  • I find the no mistake philosophy very powerful and it has helped me a lot , not only in my practice of zentangle, but also in my life, however , I think it’s one of the most challenging things

    to do as my first reaction is still uggggg when my pen does something I don’t expect , so, still learning every day. Thank you !!

    pilar sanchez on

  • I appreciate Zentangle being supportive of mental health awareness and no mistakes philosophy. I’ve struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember. I found Zentangle at a local art center & had no idea what I was getting into. A year plus later our class has grown into so much more than I expected lead by our beautiful soul czt-whose always expressing that we are Believing Mirrors.
    A safe place ~support group ~friendships and an amazing community. Zentangle & all involved & the philosophies have been the best “therapy” available for me. Today my mental health, outlook and self worth are no longer something I dread. I am positive about the future & look forward to tomorrow. Thank you to all those in this ZT community who have touched my life and heart💛

    Jennifer K on

  • The no mistakes philosophy is a game changer for me. I have always been a Creative. I have loved doing anything with my hands. Growing up in a chaotic, toxic abusive home only drove my creativity, but it also drove my inner critic. As the. years went by, I strived for. perfection in everything that I did. Then out of the blue I became the target if 3 male bullies in work. I wasn’t equipped to fight my corner, I became so depressed and the bullying brought back all of the tough stuff I endured throughout my. childhood. I ended up in hospital several times. This turned out to be a blessing for me because it was in. hospital that I learnt about Zentangle. I used my redundancy money to fly to Providence and became a czt in 2016. I had high hopes about teaching. the Zentangle Method but was thwarted because I was receiving invalidity pension and not permitted to work at that time. This only served to drive my depression. The last time I was hospitalised for my depression was in March 2020. I got home the 2nd week in March 2020, just as Covid hit. Then something clicked inside me. I knew. that Covid was going to cause job losses, depression, fear, panic. I knew right there and then that I could help people through a Club. And that is how Zentangle Club Ireland was born. I draw live through Facebook using A3 paper, Sharpies, Pencils and Brush Pens. I trip up a lot when teaching live, especially if it is a tangle that is new to me. I tell my students I have just altered the pattern, don’t panic if this happens, just keep drawing…who might even create something new 😉 so we practice Bronx Cheers and Spears but we also have other tangles that we use when we alter a pattern by accident ( a happy accident always) The feed back I receive from my students is wonderful. They love the no mistakes philosophy and some have created tangles and submitted them for approval. I’m so happy to see them do this because I know then that I have made a difference and have broken the chain of perfectionism because as my favourite artist Salvador Dali says " never to worry about reaching perfection, because we will never reach it" 🙏🏻🇮🇪 so we just Tangle on 💜☘️ thank you so much for giving me the gift of Zentangle. It has been the healing power in my life. I feel my depression has been cured, yes I have dips but. I can pull myself up…just keep drawing 💜🙏🏻☘️🇮🇪

    Angelina Arcari on

  • The no mistakes philosophy for me is a game changer. I have always been a Creative person, loving anything to do with my. hands and my imagination. Growing up in a chaotic, toxic abusive home only drove my creativity more. But it also drove my inner critic and I becambecame

    Angelina Arcari on

  • “ it is not intended to mean that there will never be an unintended stroke, spill, rip or a just plan “ugh”. What we mean is that when it does happen our reaction is not to react with disappointment, anger, or discouragement but rather to embrace it and see it as an opportunity.” I’ve been spending some time with The Stoics for a few months now and these words deeply resonate with the ideas i have been encountering. There is much about life we cannot control but we can control how we choose to view something or react to something or someone.

    Thank you for the gift of Zentangle.

    Anne on

  • No mistakes philosophy expands the creative process, enhances positive thinking and can result in something beautiful or unexpected

    Deborah R on May 14 on

  • No mistakes is just such a simple philosophy. Everything in art, as in life, is so subjective. In order to grow and stay positive it just makes sense to accept things as they happen in our creative process and not as mistakes. You change course and tangle on!

    MKay Watson on

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