Giving Yourself Permission

As we start to develop our creative skills into something “good,” we start giving ourselves rules. It’s a part of learning and growing that every artist needs, as the wild and completely free expression of childhood becomes something more skilled. Something for people beyond just you.

This isn’t inherently a bad thing; in fact, I think it’s a necessary thing if you want to develop your art into something worthwhile, especially if you someday want to be paid for it. But the problem is that these rules for being “good” can transform into chains, and they can grow out of control until they block your creativity completely.

So for the purposes of my one month challenge, as well as an overall effort to bring my creativity back to life, I am abandoning the rules of what makes something “good.” Particularly what makes an idea, a story, “good.” Whether it’s the desire to be original, or logical, or suspenseful, or unpredictable, or likable… I’m ignoring it. This month’s idea can be anything.

By giving myself permission to go for the silliest, craziest, but hopefully most fun idea, I may end up with something I simply could not publish. But the reason I’m doing this is that I want to end up with something instead of another heaping pile of nothing.

And for me at least, the key to making this permission work is to give it limits. I know that I only have to pursue this idea for one month; after that, I can abandon it for whatever idea sounds better at the time. Any doubt that pops up, from the “they’ll make fun of me for this” to the “that’s completely predictable,” can be assuaged by the mantra, “Just one month.” I just have to stick with this idea for one month.

So give yourself permission to write (or draw, or whatever) that thing that you know will not be “good.” I think a lot of times we hear artists talk about doing this, about going for that project that they “knew no one would like,” but here they are sitting on a talk show promoting it to the masses. And often, at least in my opinion, the projects that these artists feared are only questionable because they’re too unique and artistic. I know that’s not my problem; I question my projects because they’re too familiar and cheesy and stupid, not because they’re the next avant garde sensation.

Whatever “good” and “bad” means to you and your work, set yourself a limit and give yourself permission to do anything. A limit might be a time span, like a month or even just an afternoon, or it could be some other measurement—for this entire page, or until you finish this sketchbook, or (ideally) until you finish the project at hand. It may not be fun the entire time (I’m preparing myself for that doubt as well—“just one month”), but I think opening yourself up to the things that your “rules” prevent can be a wonderful exercise.

And the only one stopping you is you.


About J. Sevick

Just write.
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