Monday, 7 February 2011
on risking 'bad work'
I've been thinking a lot about the idea I wrote about before of the fear of disappointing oneself, and how paralysing that fear can be. It's the fear of messing things up; of the risk of losing some small germinal thing in a image that was perhaps beginning to work, just a little. For a start, what is 'work'? You don't know what you're doing anyway, and what you're aiming for isn't available for more than the most rudimentary analysis. It's true that you're responding - that each step is a response to the step that came before. Each mark starts where another left off, has to find its place in relation to all the other marks that are already there. But that's the point, each mark is doing it, every time. There's no insurance against messing it all up, ever. So you might as well stop thinking like that. Taken to its logical conclusion, you end up making no marks at all. Ahem. Yes, well, I'm living proof of that!
You have to just take the risk, and if the marks fail, if the whole thing turns to an offensive sludge, well, you can just make more marks still. Sometimes that actually works to turn it around, and you end with something you could never have imagined, which is much more interesting than what you thought you were trying to do. 'Creativity is mistakes' (Grayson Perry). I begin to see that now. Not only do you have to take the risk, and work on through the disappointment; I see now that you actually can't really move until you start to do this.
By producing something you think is horrible, you learn something. You learn something about what you're trying to produce, as well as about how certain materials work with each other. How can you find out what you're actually trying to produce, other than by producing things that scream at you 'no, no, not this!' You need the ugly stuff, the mess, the experiments that fail, in order to move forward.
All these years I was unable to do anything. What matters now is simply to be doing, not too much what happens when you do. Bad doesn't matter - bad is doing; is taking a chance, pushing, trying, making. Making something appear that didn't exist before.
A friend of mine pointed out recently that it's thoughts that jump in and stop the work. She reckoned that you just had to decide that you're just not going to listen to those voices - that you're going to just keep on going for the next hour, or five hours, and see what happens. Just keep going, don't stop and look, don't think. Just keep going.