When creating feels impossible, you need to know this

Creating can feel like fighting nature: Impossible. Making that painting, writing that novel or blog post or, sometimes, even a sentence can make us break into a cold sweat.

And it’s tempting to think, “Oh, I’ll just wait for inspiration to hit,” like a kid holding a kite as he waits for a strong wind to pick up on a deathly still day in the Midwest. You might be there for months, still waiting.

Don’t do that. It won’t serve you at all. Instead, do this.

Make something crappy.

That’s right. Just pick up a shovel and shovel some metaphorical crap all over your canvas, paper, screen, or whatever you’re trying to create on. If it stinks like something ungodly, don’t stop, keep it going.

Because making crap is often exactly what you need to do to create something beautiful. Any great artist or creator whom you admire did just that. Look at how they started or some of their early work. Or, if you only see their good stuff, then they destroyed all of the work they hated and were embarrassed by. But, believe me, it is there. It is terrible. It doesn’t look right: The proportions are off, the pacing is wonky, it’s dark in the places it should be light and light in the areas it should be dark. It’s crap.

So when you feel embarrassed or ashamed, remember that almost every creative person goes through what you do. Not every piece is a masterpiece. Few of them are; many of them are mediocre. Most of them probably smell like a farm on a hot, humid summer day.

Can’t write a sentence? Don’t worry about it. Jot down a fragment. Scribble a word, misspelled. Just get it out of you. Then do it again and again. And before you know it, a sentence will form right before your eyes. It will be ugly, but it will be there. Don’t worry about how bad it is because you can go back later and make it fuller, simpler, better.

Beauty isn’t formed from perfection, no; it’s cultivated in awful, embarrassing, smelly stuff. Creating is like gardening. To create, you have to kneel into the dirt and dump fertilizer down, spreading it around with your hands. It’s not neat and tidy, clean and easy. It’s dirty. You’re in crap. It gets all over you. But that’s what makes your garden grow and flourish.

Crap is what feeds your creativity. It will make your work grow.

So pick up your shovel and start piling it on. Just do it.

And not only will your work bloom.

You will too.

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