We Need More Terrible Work In This World.
Somewhere along the line, it suddenly became imperative that all work has to be perfect. Society decided it was no longer acceptable to share terrible work without fear of being criticized or rejected.
Take Instagram for example. In the early days, it was focused on sharing in-the-moment photos taken with mobile phones. Today, the platform has morphed into an album of over-polished content that has been posted long after the moment has passed.
The bar in today’s creative industry has been raised. Talk to any creative and they will tell you there is immense pressure to showcase only the best, paralyzing them on their creative journey.
By saturating the industry with over-polished work, it has created a culture of high pressure and low confidence amongst creatives.
Let us take a look at the spectrum:
On the low end, we have the young and inexperienced, afraid to share their work leading to a decrease in confidence. They are hungry to master their craft, but cannot take the steps to do so.
On the high end, we have the knowledgeable and experienced, under extreme pressure to deliver perfection or fear damaging their reputation. If they cannot deliver, the work is kept hidden, never to be seen or improved upon.
This may seem ridiculous to hear but everyone produces terrible work.
Seriously, I mean everyone. That web designer you follow on Twitter? I bet they have a sketchbook filled with concepts that never saw the day of light. Your favourite TikTok creator? I would bet you $50 they have a drafts folder filled with unpolished videos that would go viral given that algorithm.
I have a collection of terrible work gathered over the years; ideas that failed, concepts that didn’t solve a problem, and projects that were above my skill set. While all of these were terrible in their own way, the lessons learned along the way were invaluable.
An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea. - Buddha
The key to getting past this barrier of perfection is simple, Give yourself permission to create and share terrible work. Only then will the results come.
If you develop a mindset that every step of your projects have to be perfect, you will run into several problems that can damage your creative process:
You will be creating unnecessary stress on your body and mind that will prevent you from focusing on the problem at hand.
Being meticulous with every detail accelerates your mind to the completion stage of a project, causing you to lose sight of the most crucial and foundational step - the beginning.
Robbing yourself of the opportunity to explore and try new ideas to push the boundaries of your work.
This is not to say that the quality of your work does not matter, but if you find the pursuit of perfection paralyzing you, take an iterative approach to creating and allow yourself to become more “strict” further along the process.
Begin with an ideation stage where no idea is off the table. Take your favourite and form that into a first concept that is allowed to be terrible, and continue to refine until you meet your desired outcome.
Always remember, it is better to have a terrible idea, than no idea at all.
If you throw away all of your terrible work, think of all the wasted time and energy put into something with no tangible result. With so much effort going on behind the scenes, you owe it to yourself to develop those ideas. Do not be afraid to gather feedback from others, implement your learnings, and allow yourself to grow into the creative you wish to be.