Practicing Creativity

Wreck it

Wreck. It's a harsh word with harsh connotations. Destroyed, unsalvagable, spoiled completely, destined for the trash pile. Broken up, shattered, irreparable. A ruinous mistake. It brings up images of someone sadly throwing their broken pottery in the bin.

In creative practice, worry about "wrecking" something is a complete (and common) Resistance trap. Let's say you've been drawing an ink sketch, you've made some progress, and you starting to like what you see. Suddenly your pen hovers above the page, seemingly magnetically repelled from the page. What if you keep drawing and you make a mistake and you "wreck" the drawing you've already spent time on? What if you take it too far and can't fix it and get it back to this state? You're not really "done" with the sketch, but you're hesitant to keep going out of fear that you'll ruin what's already there. Maybe, you think, it's better to just stop. Maybe it's better to not try because then you'll have to put more effort into the rest to get it back to a stable state.

Or, your pen hovers above the blank page. Thoughts come, but words don't appear on the crisp white sheet, and the pen doesn't move. You know what you want to say, but you're not sure how to say it, so the pen says nothing at all. This page can only hold one set of words, and then it can't be used again... what if you wreck it and have to start over from the beginning?

Worrying about whether or not you're going to "wreck" something will stop you in your tracks, or stop you from ever starting. The secret is, you will wreck it in the process of developing it. Creativity is messy—ask anyone who has renovated a kitchen. As you get one part in order, other parts fall into disarray as a side effect, and its your job to balance all of the shifting forces. But, most things are more repairable and more malleable than we assume (Repair and refactoring processes are creative). Yes, as you proceed, some things that were working will become destabilized ("wrecked"). You'll make "mistakes", but these mistakes aren't permanent, and following the intuitive nudges about what steps to take is essential even if it will unbalance something else.

Rather than seeing items as precious, irreplacable, and potentially ruined by the smallest imperfection, see them as malleable, abundantly renewable, repairable, more alive as a result of their candid roughness (Wholeness includes roughness). Acknowledge your ability to bring the damaged and unstable back into stability and wholeness—that's what creativity is. Nothing is ruinable. Nothing is irrepairable. Nothing is permanent. It's not as serious as that. So, get in there and wreck it.

  • In your medium (painting, writing, kitchen renovation) work in a way that remains flexible (Develop the whole together). Almost everything is re-workable when you're in the middle of a creative process, even seemingly permanent things like ink, paint, and kitchen walls.
  • Lower how precious you consider your materials (What can you waste?) – it helps if you have a lot of extra blank canvases, paint, paper and time so you don't feel bad if some if it doesn't work out. Expect at least 3% of your materials and time will be "wasted."
  • Accept that a step forward in one area might be a step backward in another area and create more "work" that needs to be done. This is normal.

You don't have to worry about wrecking it.

You want to avoid not doing something because you think it will wreck something else.

You can't wreck this. Let's get it going. Right now, today.

Get in there. Make it worth caring about.

–Things John Gordon says while we're painting

Pages that link here

These are my draft notes on creativity—as a skill, a practice, and a mystery

Go brrr
There's an Internet meme: "haha money printer go brrr

About Practicing Creativity

These are my notes on creativity—as a skill, a practice, and a mystery. Everything you find here is in a perpetual draft state and much of it may not make sense. I hope these notes become clearer over time as I continue writing and updating them, although I hope they might be useful even in disarray.

For updates on new or revised notes, please subscribe to the newsletter!