Where it began…
As the year started, my fiancé and I were sitting in our small one-bedroom apartment talking. We talked about our upcoming wedding, the kind of life we wanted and our work. Work occupied most of the conversation. Not just any work but our creative work.
My fiancé is a baker while I am a photographer. Our creative “hustles” as we call them have been through ups and downs. There are days that we almost quit completely, there were days we cried and days we did not sleep trying to beat deadlines. It had been a difficult journey for us.
One of the things that stood out the most to me about our work was that we never felt like we ever created “great work”. We had an idea of what “great work” looked like. It existed somewhere on the horizon but we did not know when, where or how we would get there. This is one of the things that I have been ruminating on this week.
In the past, I have talked about the role that “Bad Work” plays in creativity. I have encouraged people to embrace the fact that the majority of the work that they produce, will SUCK! This philosophy, so to speak, helps me focus on creating and distracts me from perfectionism.
I believe that there is no such thing as “great work”. I think there only exists “better work”. Work that is considered “great” is dependent on context. I have always wondered why “The Mona Lisa” by Leonardo Da Vinci is considered one of the greatest pieces of art. Turns out; it really is not that great. This is why. (Link to MonalLisa Article)
I also believe that “great work” comes from consistently creating “bad work”. There is a complacency that develops when everything that you do is great. However, consistently creating “great work” is a fallacy.
Thinking Differently About Things…
My first belief is something that holds true to me. However, I am changing my second belief: good work comes from consistently creating bad work. I have always believed that all my work is terrible. Instead of looking at it this way, I should view it as just being what it is and see how it differs in relation to other work in the industry or space that I work in.
Instead of comparing my current work to just my previous works, I should compare it to other works that exist around me. This way I will have a much broader view of what others are doing within the space that I am working in.
I can then be able to draw from all these other creatives and employ various techniques, experimenting with what works for me and leaving out what does not work.
The reason I am thinking differently about my belief is, I feel like I am carrying a burden. I cannot always create bad work. If I am consistently making bad work then it means that I am not learning.
As I sit and work every week, I see improvement and that is a good thing. The feeling of creating something better is more satisfying and it keeps me grounded, motivated and working.
Moving from Bad to Better…
I previously mentioned that I believe that there is no such thing as “great work”. Great work exists within a certain context influenced by people’s perceptions, culture or attitude towards it, like “The Mona Lisa”.
If we are to look at the work that we do from a subjective point of view, as individuals, what we do never seems to be that great. We are always comparing what we do to others around us and deciding whether it is better or worse than someone else’s.
This is an unhealthy way to compare because we always end up feeling terrible and worthless. Hence, the work is almost always atrocious in our eyes.
The way I decide to look at things is a little different. The “greatest work” does not exist (at least in my books). I am not guaranteed of creating “the greatest work”. However, I am guaranteed of creating something better than I did before.
I think then my focus should not be on bad work. I should be focused on making something better regardless of whether it is great or not.
Let’s Be Practical…
Moving from “Bad” to “Better” can seem like an uphill task. Inducing change into our lives and work is a stressful thing. I know this because my fiancé and I have experienced it too. However, change is possible if you believe it can happen.
Asking you to believe in change is “intangible” in a sense. It lacks practicality and you are probably reading this because you want practical, physical and tangible steps that you can take to get to the change that you want to see in your work, right?
Okay…let us get practical then.
First, change is gradual. It is not instant. There are no tips and tricks to the change that you want to see. There is only process and time. “Do something for 21 days and it becomes a habit” is a common platitude, but it is not true.
Habits have been shown to develop within 18 to 247 days with the average time being about 66 days. You can change but it is going to take commitment to a process and time.
Second, change is scary. I am currently reading “Surrounded by Idiots – The Four Types of Behaviour and How to Effectively Communicate with Each in Business and In Life.” by Thomas Erickson.
This is an insightful read into human behaviour and personality. Most of the population is Phlegmatic. Phlegmatic people do not like change. They prefer things to stay as they are. This is because change causes conflict and chaos.
Phlegmatic people do not like chaos. The majority of us do not want chaos in our lives. It would be much easier to leave things as they are. So, change becomes scary.
To see your work and mine get to “Better”, we need to be aware that changing things is the key to what we envision our work to look and feel like in the future. That change depending on context, is a myriad of things that only you can look into and figure out.
So, What now…
You are involved in some type of work. It could be an office job, a creative job or freelance. Whatever you do may feel like it sucks. It may actually be really BAD.
This is not a burden that you should carry with you. I realise that in the past I have unintentionally influenced people to go down this path of believing that work cannot be good if it does not suck.
If your work sucks or feels bad then take some responsibility and start changing it. Do some research into new techniques, ask questions, collaborate, do a masters or attend a workshop. Do what you can to make it become better.
Creating from a “BAD” place is unsatisfying. The greatest work does not always have to come from a bad place. The greatest work is also not guaranteed.
So now, go out there and try to make better work. I know my fiancé and I will.