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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.

Leave us your thoughts on the "No Mistakes" philosophy in the comments for a chance to receive the ultimate "No Mistakes" bundle.

Bundle includes:

Be sure to leave your comment by 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, May 15, 2022 to be included in the drawing.



Molly Hollibaugh


  • “No Mistakes”

    For alot of my life, and I am sure this applies to others also, I heard from parent, teachers, coaches and some friends and class buddies, “you have made a mistake”. It brings you down and as self doubt creeps in you cower away from continuing with things you really loved to do. Your self esteem and worth take a hard battering over the years, and you think “how will I ever be good enough”. I am a fighter and i pushed harder each time I heard these comments from people.
    With time I learnt that i grew so much more from each so called mistake. I still make so called mistakes, but after learning and becoming a Certified Zentangle Teacher I am finally at peace with these so called mistakes which I now call “My Variations in life”. Thank you.

    Gloria (Jo) Flynn on

  • I have always liked and appreciated the “no mistakes” theory in Zentangle. I admit that it took a bit to get used to it. I am a perfectionist and at first, it was hard to accept that the line I just drew was in the wrong direction, etc. Sometimes I just left the line there as a reminder that everything is not perfect. Other times, I incorporated the mis-stroke into something obvious. I was pleasantly surprised when I was finally able to accept that it was okay. It really was okay!!

    Lynn M Jarrett on

  • The NO Mistakes philosophy has created a new space in my art, where I don’t stress over what should have been, and what actually came out of my pen. I believe it makes tangling the stress free art I so enjoy. Thank you.

    Brenda deBock on

  • This ‘No mistakes’ idea of Zentangle is what struck a chord with me to drop my fear of drawing, six years back. This bond is still growing and I am eternally happy for it. So much interested in drawing but so scared of ‘making mistakes’ and ridiculed. Being a perfectionist, I didn’t know how to master a technique without making mistakes :) so scared to even try. Then, discovered Zentangle and became free in my mind and in my strokes! Thanks so much for spreading your love and developing confidence in so many at the same time providing them with a tool to find peace, happiness and joy ❤️💕🙏

    Ramadevi Srinivasan on

  • “No mistakes” is perhaps one of the simplest philosophies but also the hardest to practice. When I first came across this philosophy I was surprised at how liberating it was! Being a perfectionist I was looking for my art to be perfect and was disappointed when it wasn’t. With “no mistakes” it’s been a complete paradigm shift and I can create art for the pure fun of it.

    Suchitra Komandur on

  • Working from home can feel isolating at times. It is very soothing to get “lost” when doing Zentangle. The No Mistakes Philosphy makes it more enjoyable, we can be our own worst critic.

    Susan Hayden on

  • “No mistakes.”………But I have learned so much through the years from my mistakes and the mistakes of others. I think we all would like a life of no mistakes, but in reality, life with mistakes helps us to grow and learn and think in so many different directions. The mistakes while tangling can often be made into the overall pattern on the tile. Just like in life, our mistakes can be made into something new or uncharted for our own life. I try to welcome mistakes (at times!) and hope not to judge them as something bad for my life; to maybe look at them as an interruption, a gentle nudge to look deeper into a situation.

    LindaJF on

  • We can be so critical of our own work. I’ve only been zentangling since Nov. 2021. I am getting so much better at appreciating the pen strokes and enjoying the process. I love the No Mistakes Philosophy.

    Lisa Lang on

  • No mistakes for me means no regrets. I’ve struggled for years with the weight of regret. Zentangling has allowed me to acknowledge the past, and to try hard every day to not create any more regrettable moments. It’s definitely a process.

    Teaching Zentangle to children has helped me replace regrets with better moments to remember. And for that I am grateful and appreciative.

    Ann Baum on

  • Until I found Zentangle I never thought I could be an “artist”. The no mistakes concept helped me with the confidence to keep pushing forward and not give up. Thank you!!!

    Sheila Pollock-Bowlin on

  • I never thought I’d get divorced and going through that time was one of the hardest things I ever experienced. I felt as if I had failed — made mistakes — in many ways. Now my life is better than I could ask or imagine and much of that is because of what I learned during that difficult period of my life. It was also during that time that I discovered Zentangle (through a church newsletter!) and I am sure it has played a huge part in my journey toward wholeness and living my best life. Thank you.

    Holly Moseley on

  • Practicing the no mistakes philosophy is both freeing and challenging at the same time. It’s truly a unique concept.

    Jacki Brewer on

  • No mistakes is a wonderful freeing creative process. Thank you

    Holly Zessin on

  • No mistakes is a wonderful freeing creative process. Thank you

    Holly Zessin on

  • The No Mistakes philosophy has definitely changed the way I look at my artwork. My Ughs have become Oops, a much kinder response. And I am much more courageous in my art because my “mistakes” simply allow for more creativity as I try different things to transform the Oops to a Yeah! In life, it helps me move more events into the “don’t sweat the small stuff” category. Thanks to the Zentangle Method for adding another tool to my mental health toolbox.

    Kitty C on

  • The Zentangle method and the great people that are in the Zentangle community have given me confidence in my ability to create beautiful artwork. I am grateful and appreciative for this group.

    Donna Agee on

  • Oh, how I LOVE the Zentangle blog! I shiver with excitement whenever I see one has arrived in in-box! There are ABSOLUTELY no mistakes!!!! How many times have we LOVED a tile or a tangle that didn’t turn out the way we “planned” or thought it would turn out. Bless those “non-mistakes!!!”

    Jamie Herron on

  • I am relatively new to the Zentangle method and I love it. My tangling practice has coincided with my starting to help run create clubs for kids between 5 and 10. The no mistakes philosophy has multiple meanings to me and the one I try to share with the kids during create club is that whatever they’re creating, it’s theirs, and so they can’t get it wrong – not that they mustn’t but that it’s not possible.

    I think the children that take it on board find that freeing and reassuring. And for the others, if they do something they hadn’t intended, we find workarounds.

    Clea on

  • I love “no mistakes”! Very liberating.

    Mari Kreft on

  • I like the ‘No Mistakes’ Philosophy. When it comes to Zentangle and I make a “mistake” I’ll often think ‘Oh, well, let’s see where this goes!’ or ‘Ok, so this is just how I draw this tangle. It doesn’t have to look like what others have done.’

    Beth N on

  • I often remind myself of the No Mistakes philosophy outside the context of Zentangle. I tell myself that even though you cannot erase pen, you can cover it, add to it, and sometimes end up finding exciting new ways to move forward.

    Rachel Jern on

  • I love the “no mistakes, only opportunities” mantra. I believe it is what has kept me continuing this creative practice since 2014. I enjoy looking back at my completed tiles and realizing they aren’t perfect, but I created them, so that makes them special to me.

    Marcia on

  • The ‘no mistakes’ philosophy has changed my life. I

    have applied it to all aspects of my life. I started out by applying it to all of my artwork ,which was very difficult to do at first. Then I realized that at heart it is the same philosophy I try to follow in life , which is “There is a purpose for everything under the sun and everything happens for a reason.” Beliving that there are no mistakes has allowed me to not be so hard on myself Which in turn has helped a great deal with my depression. So, as many others have said, “Thank you for the Zentangle method”.

    Llynn on

  • Thanks for sharing this, it resonates so much for me. I am demanding and criticism for both others and myself so things upset me often if they turn out not as my expectations. I would also be struggling with a long loop of stress, self-judgement and even anger. The “no mistake” philosophy inspires me and introduce a new mindset that I want to be! I just started Zentangle and love to explore and find my own meanings from it. Thanks the Zentangle Team!

    Wendy Wan on

  • So much wisdom and freedom in the no mistakes philosophy. I would also add that I feel it is important to take each tile to its finish, even if you think it is hopeless or would be better off as a coaster for a sloppy drink. We all deserve respect and an opportunity to bloom—-so does each tile. And they really do look better the next day.

    Sue Schneider on

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