A creativity mantra can really help you get more ideas out into the world. Because any idea, no matter how great, is highly unlikely to see the light of day because your ego is going to try to bat it down before you even begin. And when that happens again and again and again, your creative instinct starts to whither. It can’t go away entirely, because it’s part of you. But you can feel as if there’s something off. If your life were a movie it might feel like it’s going from color into black and white. In order to breathe life into your ideas and get them out in to the world, you’ve got to get the ego to stand down. And the way you do that is by giving yourself permission to let that thing suck.
This is not an original idea to me.
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The Shitty First Draft
Anne Lamott wrote just an excellent, excellent book about writing called Bird by Bird. Which you should totally get. And in Bird by Bird–curse word alert–she extols the Shitty First Draft. Which is pretty self-explanatory. Here is what she wrote about it. And remember, she’s talking specifically about writing, but the concept absolutely relates to all varieties of creative acts.
“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, ‘Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,’ you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him.
Just get it all down on paper because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go — but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”
It’s Okay For This To Suck
Also, you know the shitty first draft is the truth because Brene Brown talks about it a lot in her work. particularly in the book Daring Greatly. And although she cusses plenty, she shortens it to the SFD.
So that I’m not being too derivative, I’m saying that one of your creativity mantras should be: It’s OK for this to suck. It takes so much pressure off, you know? And if it does suck, who cares? There’s this magical thing in the writing process called editing where you get to go back and make the sucky parts at least less sucky. In product development it’s called version 2.0. What I’m saying is, you can make it better later. You are allowed to iterate. But you can’t iterate something that doesn’t exist. You must have something to start with. And letting whatever you create suck is how you get yourself that starting place.
Ignore Your Ego And Keep Going
Whether I am working on something for myself or for a client, I create drafts that I would be MORTIFIED if anybody read them. Not that they could make any sense of them. I hardly can, sometimes. To me, as a writer, the SFD is the time to say too much, to ramble, to go on too long, to put in that funny story even though you’re not sure it fits. When you get it all out and then step away for awhile, when you come back to it you’ll see it with fresh eyes. Odds are, you’ll know EXACTLY what to do to make it better.
And you might even like what you see. Of course, the ego will kick in and say, “Oh but you didn’t do this and you didn’t do that and you totally messed that up.” But you know what? You can just revise. So thanks for your concern, ego, but you got this.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment, which is brought to you by Therapist Preferred, makers of premium organic CBD products, is to let something that you do today, something that’s creative and making something where nothing used to be, suck. Try that spice you never ever use with that random ingredient that’s hiding on the door of your fridge. It might suck! Hooray! Or, whatever creative project you’ve been noodling over in your mind, just do one tiny little piece of it, and let that thing be a total disaster if it needs to be. Who cares? At least the seal will be broken.
And you know what? I’m willing to bet that you’ll look back later at what you did that so-called sucked, and think to yourself, well, that’s not actually awful. And if you let yourself just see it, you’ll start thinking, I just need to zhush this up over here, and maybe completely get rid of this part over here, and then, voila, you’ve got something that’s not half bad. In fact it might be pretty darn good. But just for today, let it suck.
Be sure to come back tomorrow when I talk about how to make creativity a habit with the third creativity mantra: keep showing up.
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