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Joy of not judging your creative work

Listening to one of Elizabeth Gilberts Magic Lesson podcasts I was delighted to hear the conversation describe how photographer Lisa Ross was making ‘bad’ art, on purpose. She was making ‘bad’ art as ‘something she was going through’ as part of her process at the time, with a view that making this ‘bad’ art would get her to the next level, and potentially ‘good’ art. Of course, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are objective, perhaps arbitrary terms, but what this conveys for me is a refreshing deviation from the norm of striving to produce good/great/brilliant creative works. Elizabeth Gilbert commented about how impressive this approach was & how it’s important to not judge your work.

For me this acknowledges a few things, one is that we can’t always produce the ‘good’ stuff whatever that means to us, and if we can accept that, it will take the pressure off and allow us to enjoy the process more, the act of creating something more. Another thing is that it takes time to develop a practice, perhaps to develop skill at doing something, no one should expect to be produce an amazing vase the first time at a potter’s wheel for example. I guess too, that part of doing creative work is that you don’t know the outcome, so you go with the flow.

This podcast reminded me of a technique I employ when writing: write a ‘crap’ draft first. Particularly if I’m finding it hard to get going, which happens, I will employ this technique. Oh boy, do some of these drafts live up to their name and are really crap, often with sentences that don’t make sense and are sometimes just a list of words.

The wonderful thing that I have found from the crap draft technique is it’s given me a starting point, something to build upon, or edit away at. Also, it’s a relief to get started, takes some of the stress away especially if I’m on a deadline. Often when looking at the crap draft, what seemed like novels worth of words in my head translate to a page when written down. So then I go away, do some research or go for a walk and let things simmer, which is an important part of this process for me.

I feel it’s important to give ourselves permission to write the crap draft or make the bad art or whatever your version of that is. To create stuff that isn’t perfect or brilliant or beautiful, perhaps not even likeable by ourselves and that is OK! By the doing, whatever creative endeavour it is, we are flexing our creative muscles, we are activating different parts of our brains which has all sorts of benefits. For me, I feel calmer, more like me when I do creative stuff, and I believe it is an integral part of being human.

I imagine there is a lot of research about this which I will look into, and post about another time. This topic also leads me to think about play and exploration. For now, I’m giving myself permission to finish here, although this is not the longest blog post, and does not contain a bunch of statistics and research, I hope it sparked something for you and you will understand why I’m finishing this way .

I will leave you with this call to action: Get to creating and tell that inner critic & judge to shush up and enjoy the ride.



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