I encountered a good story today that surprised and amused me. Apparently some clever people did an experiment in a pottery class. They divided the class into two and told one half they would be judged on the quality of the pots they made. The other half was told that they were going to be judged successful or not on the basis of the quantity of pots they made. They were just going to count/weigh them and if they made lots of pots, they’d get the prize.
Guess what happened? When it came to adjudicate the two halves of the class on their own particular merits, as defined at the beginning of the exercise, it was found that the guys who were supposed to concentrate on quality did moderately well. Sure, their pots were good, but there were only a few of them and even the best pots had obvious flaws and much room for improvement. It was a good try, but not entirely successful.
However, this was the surprise. The guys who were supposed to produce pots in quantity did that, it’s true. They exceeded their target by quite some margin. Not only that, but the pots they made were initially quite amateurish and rushed, but the more pots they made, the better their quality became. At the end of their time, the guys producing in quantity had more pots of markedly higher quality than all of the pots from the quality focused group.
I guess that just tells us something we all already know: practice makes perfect. As they say, you can always go back and edit a badly written page, but you cannot edit a blank page at all. Spend less time theorising about the quality of your work and just make some art. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad at first, because the more of it you make, the better it gets. In fact, it gets much better than it can by merely planning to make something of quality. In the end, your skills and hands are what count, perhaps more so than your mind and imagination.
If you can’t take the first steps in creating your art, then give yourself permission to make bad art, at first. Be deliberate about it. Decide that you are going to make something bad on purpose. You’ll struggle to maintain the low standards that you set for yourself, as your work steadily, relentlessly, unstoppably improves, just by going through the process over and over. I promise you.
What does this tell us? Write and record songs. Paint paintings. Sculpt. Draw. Sew. Knit. Sing. Play. Whatever your art is, just do a lot of it and leave the rest to repetition. With some judicious injections of imagination at the right moments, you’ll get the knack before you know it.