Creative Success

50 Shades to Messing Up!

We’ve been talking about switching things up these last couple weeks:

The reverse psychology tricks and tips; The No versus Yes; The Don’t versus Do…

And it got me thinking…

As a creative, I’ve never been super comfortable with doing things the “regular” way just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Have you ever felt that? Like maybe you didn’t really fit into that perfect mold…Like, you just had a sense of what you wanted, but the way everyone else was doing it just didn’t feel like YOU?

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s perfectly normal! There is only one YOU! And YOU bring your own very special gift to the table. As Marie Forleo puts it “The world really does need that special gift that only you have.”

So –

~There will be times when you look at a path and say – “WOW! This feels perfect!”

~And there will be times when you look at it and say “No, I don’t think so!”

~And, of course, there will be times when you say – “Hmmm, it looks good, but surely there’s an easier, better, different way to do that!”

You are correct! There is – and it’s called – your way! Yep, you have your own gift so you might as well have your own path and your own way of thinking as well! But those roads less traveled may include a few mess-ups along the way.

So, how do you make it work FOR you?

Think Differently

As a group, we the creative, are united by their unwillingness to just accept all the “traditional” ways of thinking about, and doing, things. By choosing this different approach, we accept the uncertainty, and possibly the “faceplant-into-the-dirt” kind of failure.

But isn’t that what creative thinking’s all about? Isn’t that the fun of it? It’s the risk that brings out all the good stuff and opens us up to new ideas! I call it the messy middle.

The secret seems to be our willingness to do things differently even when that means failing. (Posterchild here – raising her hand!)

This is especially true in the “Inspiration” phase of your creative process. (For more info on that, check out my article on the creative process HERE.) The more ideas we come up with, the better our chances of creating a masterpiece. On the other hand, there will be a lot of bad ideas in there as well.  Doing things differently means you will probably make mistakes, do things badly, or flat out wrong! That’s normal so expect it and don’t let it get in your way.

Here is a lesson I would like to pass along to you from my college days. As a student of fashion design, I had many assignments like this. My design instructor (Thank you Henry Shwartz!) would expect 50 sketches per week. Sometimes it was a skirt, sometimes a blouse. But regardless, I had to turn in 50 a week. No more, no less.

As you can imagine, many were flat out terrible. But the flip side is that, among the 50, there would always be a few gems. It was for those gems that I had to reach far and wide, and sometimes deep, to find them. It required me to think differently – think WAY outside the box! It required that I view everything in a different way, try things I never tried, and look at resources I never considered.

The Secret Creative Sauce

There’s a reason for bringing this up, and a reason I named this article what I did!

I’m not in that industry anymore. There are things about it that I loved and there are things I didn’t. There are a lot of things I learned. As I look at my future path, I notice that there are a few familiar things that keep popping up, but they needed to be “messed with” to work.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t want to go back to the “way it was” but I am coming full circle. (More about that HERE.) And I’m doing it differently. I am forging my own path so to speak, and it’s messy! Like, real messy!

I’m coming back around to my gift and thinking about it differently than I did before. Call it transition, or evolution, or maturing. Whatever you choose to call your creative path, make sure it is fun, exciting to you, and feels like what you want to do. Forge your own path that feels like a good fit!

Will following that perfect path to creativity mean you will become a Mozart or a Picasso? Not necessarily. But, when your creative muse is alive inside you, whatever your work may be, you become an imaginative, curious, self-meaningful creature.

The Messy Middle

The lesson here is to learn to embrace our inner messy, creative selves, and give ourselves permission to explore and express. It’s important to give ourselves permission to approach our creativity from a different angle…and even mess it up!

I’ll bet you’re asking – HOW? Fair point! I want to say that your only responsibility is to get in there, show up, and try stuff. The “how” will take care of itself…but you do have to press start at some point.

The “how” is quite individual. My first suggestion is to throw as much down on paper as possible. Remember those 50 sketches? OK, they were practice rounds, but they count. So, here’s something you can try to view your creativity from a different perspective!

1. Mess up on purpose!

If you’re generating ideas, set yourself a BIG quota- one that forces you to put even the ridiculously bad ones on paper. Maybe you shoot for 50! Some will be worth investigating and some will not. In fact, I dare you to see how many BAD ideas you can come up with!

If it’s a sketching practice you are cultivating, do 50 sketches of that apple! Make sure they are from different angles, with different light sources, and maybe even different apples. Include some drawings from memory. Wait – is that an apple or a tomato? Oh, who cares!

If it’s composition you’re struggling with, draw 50 2” squares on paper (fit as many as you can on a single sheet). Then draw lines in each of the 50 squares to divide the space in a “pleasing” manner – each one different than the last. What if you limited yourself to only three lines each? Damn, this is hard!

2. Make It Easier

This is what I tell struggling creatives. If you are intimidated by the blank page, or the blank canvas, take a pencil and mark on it. Just do it. Make a single mark somewhere. There! It’s done! It’s been ruined already. It is no longer that pristine, unspoiled page. You might as well do something else to it because it’s already “used.”

Same goes for any creative pursuit. Just make a “metaphorical” mark and ruin the “innocence” of the project from the get-go! Mess it up first!

The fact of the matter is that true creativity doesn’t show its face unless we give ourselves permission to mess it up. Try something. So, what if you mess it up. You can always try something else. By allowing this behavior, we help create a world that is more welcoming of the creative spirit, and we make it possible to allow others to follow their own path too.

To be clear, I’m not telling you to waste materials, or to break something, or ruin expensive tools. The object is to loosen the reins of expectation and allow yourself some bad work in order to find the good work.

3. Give Them Something to Say NO To

Here is another story from my past. As a clothing designer, I had to design collections that had 7 to 10 groups with 5 to 7 pieces in each group. I did that for 5 seasons a year!

So, the total number of designs each season would be somewhere between 35 and 75 pieces. That’s a lot of stuff! Those college lessons came in handy for sure!

And guess what? Even in the professional setting, not every group was a masterpiece. We always made sure that they were attractive, well designed, and salable. But not everything could be “good.” As a designer, we would always laugh because, at the end of it all, we gave the buyers “something to say NO to!” Try as we might, we can NEVER produce perfection in everything we do. So, stop trying. And give your creative soul something to say no to. I promise – in those 50 shades to messing up – you will find some. Easy Peasy!

OK, over to you. Did you know it could take 50 tries to find your gem? They say Einstein took over 10,000 before his light bulb gem! Instead of expecting to get it right, try expecting to get it wrong. Even enjoy the messing up part of the process. Have you ever tried to count how many no’s it took to get to the yes? Try these exercises and share your insights in the comments.

Join my private Facebook group, Virginia’s Studio Cats where we can share our discoveries and help you find your gems. If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with your friends and family. Click your favorite social platform below. And join my email list for weekly creative inspiration and get support and encouragement.

You can find me LIVE on my Facebook page, Virginia Leigh Studio, at 3:00 pm Central every Wednesday and we’ll chat about this. I’d love to hear from you.

Become Creatively-U!

Find more purpose and meaning in your day!

2 thoughts on “50 Shades to Messing Up!”

  1. Jennifer Wygal Millett

    This is wonderful! This is an excellent example to get me back to drawing! Thank you Virginia!!! ❤️

    1. Glad it helped! The only way we grow and learn is to mess up a bit along the way. We didn’t learn to walk until AFTER we fell flat on our face a few times! LOL Messing up is a GOOD thing!

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