‘Permission to suck’ as a part of the creative process 

The last two weeks I’ve been writing a fair amount for my blog, but I’ve not been not releasing the material. (I have a personal rule to not put out anything that sucks. 😉 So, I’ve been really frustrated, but now I’m realizing that this is a natural part of the process.

I’m not a songwriter but, as a song-drummer, I’m really tuned into songwriters and the songwriting process. One process that I’ve heard about many times is that songwriters will write on a regular basis, churning out lots and lots of material, but only releasing their best material–which is a small percentage of everything they write. This frees them up to be more creative because this approach turns off their inner critic and gives them ‘permission’ to just  write whatever strikes them at the time. Even if it’s bad. And they can bring their editing mind to the song later–away from the writing and creating process.


Now, the publisher side of me knows that I need to release posts on a regular basis. However, this new approach doesn’t mean I have to tell the publisher in me to go away. It just means I need to get out in front of my deadlines–I need to have a good number of finished blog posts in my file (5? 10?). This way, I can decide to not release poor-quality posts without stopping the publishing process like I have these past few weeks.

So, there you go. In a way it’s kind of freeing, like giving yourself ‘permission to suck’. I can spend a week writing a post that will never see the light of day, and my publishing schedule doesn’t suffer.

Now how does this relate to teaching and performing music? Well, as a song drummer, this can happen in a rehearsal environment. A songwriter brings in a song for the band to play, and I can ask them if it’s OK if I try something weird on the drums. Then I play the weird thing, and they tell me if it works for them, or not.

Now, it’s likely that they’ll ask for some change to what I’m playing (a ‘change’ as in “stop doing THAT” ;), but there are times when the weird things make sense and it sends the song and band to a totally different place. And THAT, my friends, is one of the most fun things that I do!

Sometimes a big part of contributing something unique to the world is giving yourself permission to just be bad at that something for a time. Being bad at it while you’re developing something fabulous in a more controlled, appropriate way (you don’t want to do something this in a totally inappropriate place or time).

Bands need places to perform where they can ‘develop’. (Which is to say, a club or venue where they can be bad, or ‘not 100% wonderful yet’ while they’re developing as an ensemble.) Accountants need entry-level positions to work in while they develop the fabulous, amazing new approach to bookkeeping that will change the companies they work for. Doctors need to start out watching more experienced doctors before they try out their ‘crazy’ idea that will change the lives of their future chemo patients. And so on, and so on…

Where are you giving yourself permission to suck, to be bad, to be ‘not 100% ready yet’?

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