Category Archives: Self-Talk

Willing to Make Bad Art

Someone who practices diligently, is consistently applying herself, and sticks with things long enough to get good, really good, at it.  This is not a description of me.  Yet.

It would be exceedingly ridiculous to complain about being the type of person for whom many things came easily.  But I’m finding, as I endeavor to learn things that I am not naturally good at, there is a downside to that history.  I never learned any stick-with-it-ness.  Here I am, 55 years old, and still haven’t learned good study habits.  Making good grades in school came easily for me.  Excelling in sports came easily for me.  I only practiced the various sports I participated in as much as I did because it was fun.  It certainly wasn’t because of my stellar discipline.

Creating art, up to a certain level, came easily.  Photography, up to a certain level, came easily.  Progressing beyond “advanced beginner”, however, apparently does not come easily for me.  The problem is, though, that I am now no longer satisfied with being an advanced beginner, or even sorta skilled.  I want to be good at it.  Really good at it.  But [heavy sigh] I am still a novice.  The real bummer part is that the only reason I am still a novice is because I have not been willing to put in the time and the effort to do the work of getting good, particularly when I deemed the product I was creating as sorta crappy.

I heard an impactful quote about achieving creative excellence:  “You have to be willing to make bad art.”WillingtoMakeBadArtSmallwish I knew who to credit, but I do not.  I have not, thus far, been willing to make bad art.  I had great intentions, envisioned something beautiful, gave it a try, and when the thing did not turn out anywhere near my vision – as it so seldom does – I weenied out and walked away.  I gave up and moved on to the next thing.  I justified it, of course, by telling myself things like, “Well, that must not be my thing.  That obviously wasn’t my passion,” or other B.S. things that made it okay for me to give up.

There’s a problem, though.  I just really don’t want to give up and move on this time.  I really like making art.  I’m stuck between not loving my current ability to create and being unwilling to give up.

So – and this is a little scary — I guess I will just have to learn discipline, and develop the willingness to make bad art.  I’ve heard it said that it takes 10,000 hours before you get really, really good at something.  100 down, 9,900 to go.

It helps to have a clear understanding of the creative process.  I need to understand that Steps 3 and 4 (below) have great potential to derail my process – and commitment.  But since I now know this, and know that Steps 5 and 6 will make up for Steps 3 and 4, then I can muster the necessary motivation to stick with it.  I just didn’t fully realize that making crappy art was just part of the deal.  Really great artists have made their share of such art.  They just didn’t necessarily publish it.  I have not been able to find the original author to give credit, but here it is:

The Creative Process:

  1. This is awesome.
  2. This is tricky.
  3. This is sh*t.
  4. I am sh*t.
  5. This might be ok.
  6. This is awesome.

Since I now understand this crazy process a wee bit better, and get it that I must make art and lots of it, I am now more motivated and well-equipped to continue the journey of 10,000 hours.  I feel as though I have been picked up, brushed off and set back on my creative path.  I just hope I can remember this as I create my next crappy piece of art.  Hopefully, I will also make some brilliant pieces of art along the way and some mediocre ones, too.

Good thing you can just paint over most of them and keep going…

I’m Gonna Get In Trouble

For as long as I can remember, I have had this nagging, low-level feeling that I’m about to get in trouble.  It has been an ongoing theme playing in the background of my mind for decades.  I think people do that.  They pick up a tune in their head and it just keeps playing over and over, and is adapted to fit whatever happens to be going on in their life.  For me, I have versions of the “gonna get in trouble” tune that I have played at work, with regard to chores around the house, and in relationship with friends and family.  Sometimes I play a slightly different version, “I know I am forgetting something”, and of course, having forgotten whatever it is will get me in trouble somehow.

There are endless varieties of tunes, but some are on the most popular list and get adopted a lot, tunes like “I’m not smart enough,” or “I’m not pretty enough”.  Another popular one is, “I’ll probably get sick.”  Probably less common, but there are also happy tunes, like “Things always work out for me.”  I like that tune.  I want to have that one on my playlist.

These tunes actually shape and influence the outcomes of people’s lives.  Our brains hear the themes we repeat endlessly to ourselves and then sets out on a mission to find things and situations that align with them, and filters out anything that doesn’t.  We all have these themes, or beliefs, that run our lives, and until we make it conscious and notice what we are doing, it will continue playing and influencing what we let in to our lives and what we filter out of our lives.  There is an unlimited abundance of ideas, resources and opportunities right in front of us that we are totally overlooking because our brain filters them out as a result of the stories we tell ourselves and the theme songs we play on auto-repeat.  It defines our identity, who and how we think we are.  I suppose you could call it “I tunes”, since we use them to define who we are, who “I” am.

My “I’m about to get in trouble” theme started in my childhood at least by the summer in which I turned 12.  This was the summer my family moved to a tiny town called Oologah.  We lived in a mobile home, or house trailer, some folks called them, parked in the middle of a cow pasture.  I have three older sisters and a younger brother, and each of us kids was assigned chores, such as vacuuming and dusting or carrying out the trash, and we would get in trouble if we didn’t have them done by the time Mom got home from work.

I was a procrastinator, even way back then, and that was on a good day.  Most days it was worse than procrastination.  I just didn’t get it done.  And I constantly had that “I’m gonna get in trouble,” feeling hanging over me.  One of my sisters was quite fond of reminding me of my impending doom as well.  But still, whatever it was that diverted my attention apparently seemed more important to me than getting my chores done and avoiding punishment.  Honestly, I can’t even remember what the punishment was or if it was ever really carried out.  I can’t remember that part.  Just the feeling, “I’m gonna get in trouble.”  It wasn’t an intense, terrifying feeling.  It was just a low-level nagging feeling, and it is still with me today.  I think it might be time to take that old record off the record player.

But how does one go about doing that?  That will be a topic for further investigation, but what I do know for sure now is that it will never change until I do the work to make it conscious and become aware in the moments I am playing this theme.  You cannot change what you do not notice.

For now, I will not worry about changing or fixing the theme.  I will not attempt to wrestle it to the ground and kill it.  I will sharpen my awareness and hear the message it has for me.  I trust that some part of me is replaying that tune over and over to communicate something important to me, to be of service to me in some way.  The whole of me will benefit by giving that part of myself a chance to be noticed, heard and understood.