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“A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”—James Joyce.

I first saw this put this way on the steps of a bookstore: “A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are ones of conscious choice and open new doors.” At once I wrote it down.—James Joyce.

It means we allow our “mistakes” to lead us.

Who is James Joyce? For the answer go here:

Who is the man of genius? Who defines genius?

John Taylor Gatto, author of THE UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF AMERICAN EDUCATION, states in conclusion, “Genius is as common as dirt.” The book can be read in pdf form here: . Reading it may save you if you are a young person caught up in the education system. It may save your kids if you are a parent about to send your kid to school.

I first discovered Mr. Gatto from his essay AGAINST SCHOOL which appeared in Harper’s Magazine. It was subtitled “How public education cripples our kids, and why.” That essay can be found here: . For years I printed it and passed it out to people who came to my CineForum in Toronto.

What I am saying is that you, the reader of this piece, according to Gatto (and I agree with him) are as much of a  genius as James Joyce or any of the may to whom genius is attributed.

There are fields of course where mistakes can be fatal. Everyone acknowledges that. If they do not I certainly do.

A surgeon making a mistake might kill his patient. At the wheel of a vehicle there is no room for error.

However in the arts mistakes are always rumbling voices from within seeking to break through the convention of our minds.

As an example, one night I was transcribing a poem which had suddenly popped into my mind. I liked it. I wrote it down not just as regular letters but with a deliberate artistic script. I was going along pretty good when my fingers slipped. I wrote down a letter other than the letter I had meant to write down.

This meant I would have to start over from the top as that mistake had ruined the whole work.

Or had it?

I looked at the letter. I thought about the letter. I let the mistake lead me. In my mind popped an entirely new and stronger direction I could take the piece in. Happy I once again moved forward.

Everything was going along great when once again my fingers stumbled. I wrote a letter other than the letter I had meant to write. Again I looked at it. Again I sought a way to incorporate the “mistake.” Again what I got was better, stronger.

For myself this is what James Joyce means when he stated, “A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”

As it happens I have a lot of friends who are creative people. In conversation I learned to a person each did and does what Joyce describes.

Writing at its best should be thinking. Joyce was one of the first; I believe he was the first, to make his writing about thinking.

What is thinking?

For the answer look to yourself. You’re doing it all the time.

Who is the wo/man of genius? You are.

Let your mistakes lead you.

The thing common to people of genius is that almost always they are the subjects of great controversy. Often they find themselves before the courts.


—Reg Hartt

For more go to these links:

Jane Jacobs: Writing Is Discovery

The Underground History Of American Education- John Taylor Gatto, full.wmv

Jane Jacobs links

Incompetent by the time we are prepared

On writing

Speak about what you want

Dumbing Us Down | by John Taylor Gatto |


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