Are you producing Shit Nuggets or Creative Gold?

I was skimming the clearance aisle at TJ Maxx the other day, and a funny little book caught my eye.  It was just a bunch of outlines of different things, "blank" pages basically, and you fill in your own designs.  It contained templates for everything from coffee mugs to skyscrapers to men's facial hair.

As I stood there in the aisle, flipping through the disturbingly blank pages, I was overcome by a mixture of anxiety and excitement.  This feeling is all to familiar to me... it is the same feeling that I get every time I start a new project; every time that I come face to face with a blank slate.  Every. Single. Time.  My shoulders tense, heartbeat quickens, and palms get sweaty.  I am terrified of a blank page; yet at the same time, it is what I live for.

This book spoke to me so intently, I believe, because it embodies exactly what I need to work on right now - getting started, making the first mark.  I tend to wait until I feel ready before starting something new, until I know that I will succeed, until I have it worked out in my head and can put it all down perfectly on paper.  But imagine the opportunities that I am missing out on by not being willing to make a few mistakes.  Imagine what I could be learning about myself and my art if I allowed myself to fail more often.  I think that this is a huge hurdle for many creative people.  Perfectionism does far more harm than good to the creative process.  In fact, perfectionism and creativity are exact opposites. 

So what can we do about this?  We can just get started - before we are ready.  And we can recognize the fact that some of what we create is going to suck, that's just part of it.  Tina Fey says that you have to be willing to put the shit nuggets out there with the good stuff.  "You can't worry about it.  As long as you know the difference, you can go back to panning for gold on Monday."

But, even as I stood there in the aisle at TJ Maxx that day, I was already strategizing that I could fill in the designs with pencil first, in case I mess up (don't want to commit to a design concept too soon!)  But that defeats the whole purpose.  So I have decided that I will fill in the blanks with INK.  No half-hearted attempts that I can erase or correct later.  I'm all in, mistakes and all.

So if you need me, I'll be here, creating shit nuggets (in ink), so I can get one step closer to the gold!

© Haley McManigal 2014

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