The Importance Of Creating Absolute Rubbish

Rubbish In Napoli
image: chrisjohnbeckett

Part of being creative includes a very necessary need to create absolute rubbish. The worst, most amateurish, most mistake laden art you’ve ever seen. Maybe the worst the world has (n)ever seen.

Now, as a creativity coach, you might find these statements a little surprising, if not shocking.

Surely I should be encouraging you to create the best work you can create, to continually evolve as an artist, to bring beautiful, inspiring art into the world, not to churn out complete junk?

Here’s why it’s important to create complete rubbish.

If you wait around until you have the most perfect idea before you start creating, you’ll wait months, years, maybe forever.

If you wait until you have the exact right materials, even though you already have enough art stuff to stock the art departments of a three large schools, you’ll wait months, years, maybe forever.

If you wait until you have a huge uninterrupted three day block of time to start that new project, you’ll wait months, years, maybe forever.

If you wait until you’re good/ talented/ experienced enough to create your masterpiece, you’ll wait months, years, maybe forever.

The only way to create is to step up and create.

The only way to create your best work – the greatest work of your life – is to create art that isn’t so good beforehand. Then get a little bit better each time.

A simple example:

I wrote a lot of poems before I wrote more than even a couple of lines that I thought were any good and that I was pleased with. Hundreds of poems, thousands of words.

It was only by writing through all those not so great lines (and plenty of utterly rubbish ones) that I learned how to write the good stuff.

Within a single piece of writing, say a new blog post, the first paragraph I write is rarely the best paragraph of the post, let alone the best paragraph I’ve ever written.

I just start, and go where the idea takes me, and then come back and edit later.

If you create something, you’re off and away. The engine’s started, the handbrake is off, your wheels have hit the road.

You might splutter and stall a little at first but keep that pedal squeezed and your eyes on the road ahead and you’ll slowly and surely gain that flow, that momentum.

When you’re cruising on a sunny day with the wind in your hair, do you think about the first few metres you pulled out of your driveway? Or do you enjoy the endless miles and feeling of freedom you’re experiencing right now?

In short, quit stalling and get started.

Don’t wait for the perfect idea or the most exquisite first line or note or stitch or stroke.

Create something, get the juices flowing. The more often you do, the easier it becomes to get that engine warm and get straight to the good stuff from the off.

You don’t need to read anymore, and you already knew all this anyway.

So go, go create!


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8 thoughts on “The Importance Of Creating Absolute Rubbish”

  1. Yup, being willing to suck is critical to creative production. 🙂

    I also find that what I initially think is junk often doesn’t look so terrible when I return to it later. It was only my unrealistic expectations at the time I was working that made me think it was awful. When I look at it without any expectations, I can see the positive aspects.

    Well, and then there’s just pure and utter garbage too. 🙂 All part of the process!


    1. A lot of good points Sue, thanks for your thoughts. Ultimately what you said last is so true, it is all part of being an artist, part of the creative process. If we accept and embrace all these different parts it makes it so much easier to create, and to be ourselves.


  2. Enjoyed this post Dan. One of the biggest blocks I face is putting too much pressure on myself to create something amazing. When I give myself permission to create rubbish, the pressure is lifted and sometime a juicy period of creativity follows. I also make a point of saving my ‘rubbish’ and using it later to lift a line here or there for a new writing project, or cut up part of a ‘failed’ artwork for use as collage.

    Rubbish = totally underrated.


  3. Rubbish can be recycled – excellent reminder Dave!

    Even in the work we discount at first, there’s always something of value, whether it’s an idea we can take and develop in the future, or the added experience we get from taking on the project. It’s always beneficial to keep creating.

    Thanks for you comments.


  4. Excellent post.

    I write everyday and some days I’m just not feeling it with my WIP so I just write a short story and give myself permission to let it be horrible. A lot of pieces that I’ve written that way have turned out to be projects that I’ve decided to develop further. Some inspire other ideas, and others were just a way to get the crap out of my system and start writing better. In every situation though, it’s been a positive.


    1. That’s an interesting angle Caethes – you keep creating to unblock your system, and let the good stuff through, rather than just sit there stuck and blocked. Love that idea!

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply.


  5. I guess the upside of writing is that “material cost” is not an issue. With painting, I find I’m uttely incapable of working on expensive canvas or paper. Knowing how much it cost paralyses me. Working on cheap material (paint & brushes excluded, but that’s not expensive overall anyway) gives me permission to screw up completely, and frees me to make good work.

    A teacher once said (when I lamented about my crappy work): it took 6 crappy pieces to be able to make that one really good one. That’s how it is, it all contributes.


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