“Stop starting over, just keep going.”

That’s the advice my instructor used to give me when I was a kid learning to play the keyboard. Like anyone learning a new skill, I would make the inevitable mistake and instinctively start the piece over. I felt like it had been ruined, so there was no point continuing with it. The only thing to do was to begin again. But my instructor disagreed, and would repeatedly drum into my head that I should not stop, but keep going.

I’ve never forgotten that advice, because as it turned out, it applies to more than just keyboards.

I remembered it again recently, talking to a friend who was struggling with a bit of writing. She had been struggling with some writing and felt like she had to start over. She was afraid of getting seven chapters in only to realise she was writing in the wrong direction and then going back to “edit and edit and edit.” It was obvious she was talking from painful experience.

So I shared my instructor’s advice:

“Don’t start over. Just keep going.”

After all that’s how we live our lives, isn’t it? We get born and then it’s a one way trip from there, and we just work it out and make it up as we go. No do overs. (Except you believe in reincarnation—I don’t, but I can see the appeal.)

Why do we think we need to start things over? I think some of it comes from the idea that there’s a right path and if things have gone awry we must have missed it and need to go back.

Except life is art, not math, risk ght?

It’s not an equation that you miss and start all over again with the correct variables. It’s a painting you keep at even if you botch a stroke, a song you keep playing even if you get a note wrong. The problem is, when starting over is an option, we tend to take it.

And the question is, should we?

It’s tempting but in reality, can we ever really? As the quote goes that’s attributed to ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” You could say, too, that no one plays the same tune twice.

And it’s not just that. There’s also the fact that the only way to truly learn is to move forward, and repeatedly going back means never really learning about anything beyond a certain point.

You might as well go on.

Published by Doc Ayomide

I’m a medical doctor with specialty training in psychiatry, and I love thinking and writing about what it means to be human.

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1 Comment

  1. Life is at its best when we let go of the past and focus on the future as in ‘go ahead don’t stop’!!!

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