Make bad art.
On the way to my current creative practice, I worked with a lot of different mediums. I was curious. With so many interesting creative tools to use, it made sense to try them all. What’s more, when I was starting out and hadn’t yet learned about financial wellbeing, I stretched my creative skillset out of necessity. I needed to make money. Now, however, I wonder if my way of moving from medium to medium was more clever than I give myself credit for.
In art school, my peers and I would sometimes make bad art as a way to blow off steam. As much as we desperately wanted to be taken seriously as creatives, we were also under an immense amount of pressure. So making bad art gave us access to a playful way of being that offered a reprieve from the forces that were shaping us and our work. Looking back, I see that I was learning a powerful lesson on how to keep going as a creative.
When I began working on my current creative project, that is both an online coaching class as well as a do-over of my art school thesis, I decided to work with film and a style of puppets that I’d never built or performed with before. I also included stop motion, another new medium. As someone with a history of self-sabotage and setting myself up for failure, I wondered if that’s what I was doing yet again. Still, against my better judgment, I got to work.
Seven months later, I am feeling the apprehension and excitement of getting closer to launch day. I am also feeling the slow satisfaction that comes with the realization that I tricked myself in order to get where I am today. In working with new creative mediums, I set the bar low for my expectations of the final result. I also forced myself to spend more energy learning and problem solving than wondering if what I was making was good enough.
One of my creative friends and I often laugh about the way that we quickly become toddlers with chainsaws when it’s time to create. We compare experiences of how we have successfully and unsuccessfully coaxed our creative selves to come out and play. It’s such a fine line that, when overstepped, can lead to disastrous results. These conversations remind me that, as creatives, we are all hostage negotiators, hostage keepers, and the hostage.
Maybe an antidote to the paralyzing fear/anxiety/doubt that we inevitably feel at various points in our creative practices is to make bad art. It’s to pick up tools that we’re unfamiliar with and create in a way that our inner critic can’t even be bothered to comment on. Which is not to say that we approach what we’re doing with less care. Just less skill and fewer expectations. This approach has helped me heal some of my own creative trauma. Maybe it’ll do the same for you.
So, how can making bad art help you do work you’re proud of?