Thursday, October 30, 2008

the right to suck and waste time

I had a tiny little meltdown last night. Yes, me--hard to believe I know. I've been noticing that I've been very crabby lately. Short-tempered, irritable, and impatient. If you read this blog, you might think that I am like that all the time, and to be completely truthful I do have an edge to me that I started honing around age 6, so my edge is pretty sharp. It can cut paper. Since I am a very complex person with lots of depth and facets, I'm also very sunny and friendly, and I do not enjoy being a bitch. Except when I mean to be a bitch, in which case there is no greater enjoyment.

Anyway, what came out of the meltdown was something that I've been turning over in my head for a while. Part of being a successful artist is to make amazing art-- seemingly effortlessly. But this is the rub-- to make amazing work you have to make a lot of stuff that kinda sucks. That may seem obvious, but when you reach a place where you're work is selling at a consistent pace and supporting yourself and your, ahem, habits, it's very easy to feel like you've got it all dialed out. Making work that sucks suddenly doesn't seem like an option, it feels like a waste of time. It's very easy to convince yourself that everything that comes off your fingertips should be good and reflect your masterful craftmanship. When it's not, failure is something to be disposed of quickly.

Anyway, I realized I need to write myself a new job description. The new job description, aside from cranking out plates, bowls, vases, cups, teapots, sake sets, and anything else that strikes my customer's fancy in record time, is to make some work that totally sucks. Not even sellable. I realized that it's actually my right to make sucky work, and it's part of my job to waste time. When I feel the pressure to whip out nothing but perfect work that will sell, I get so irritable, and I don't even enjoy the process of making it. I get bored, and then I am absolutely no fun to be around. Can you imagine? I have the greatest job in the world, and I actually get bored with it, and myself. I think all of us artist types need to take some time out of our daily routine to make some work that probably sucks, and not get too down on ourselves about it.

As an aside, I wanted to thank the dozens of people who posted comments about my art school rant, and all the emails I received about it. I read some very well-thought out ideas, and it makes me feel good that people take the time out to give me their thoughts. I don't often post comments back, because I frankly do not have the time. But I want everyone to know that I read every comment that comes through, and I really appreciate what people have to say. Thank you!

14 comments:

  1. One of the things I love, love, love about your blog, is your uncanny ability to read my mind from thousands of miles away...and all without knowing one another! ;) Seriously, though, I know there are lots of us out there working away at things we love, but it's awfully nice - and incredibly relate-able and soothing - to read that we're literally kicking the same sorts of thoughts, doubts, excitements, and questions around our full little heads. We don't have an office to go to every day to commiserate with co-workers (thank goodness!), and your honesty and candid thoughts are a healthy, happy replacement for that relationship - for me, at least. So, once again, thanks for sharing!

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  2. It's good to hear the other side of being a 'creative'. I'm renowned for being difficult and argumentative, and when I read your blog, I know it's not just me, with that facet of my character. I am also of a sunny disposition, but only occasionally ;)

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  3. Hi, ive only started up my creative urges again recently & have been trying my hand @ various different things in an attempt to find my medium, some of which really have sucked, so thanks for being honest about the whole process!
    I guess you don't really grow as a person or an artist if you only stick to what you know you can do x

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  4. It has been said, that the most successful people got that way because they are willing to fail alot!...

    makes sense, no?

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  5. Whitney, having had the pleasure of watching you throw on the wheel, and being awed by how masterful you are at your craft, it's hard to believe you could make "sucky" work. But it's very reassuring to hear an artist of your stature makes a statement about failure, and give the rest of us hope that our own sucky work is going somewhere.

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  6. I'm a procrastinator at heart, so when I have a deadline, I factor in the goof-off time, and interestingly, that's when I come up with some of my most creative ideas! Unfortunately, it's not enough time to see them through.

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  7. Anonymous1:06 PM

    http://www.brucemaudesign.com/incomplete_manifesto.html

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  8. Anonymous1:06 PM

    http://www.brucemaudesign.com/incomplete_manifesto.html

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  9. I actually didn't even finish reading your post. I got to the part where you say you have to make a certain amount of work that sucks, and I just ...stopped reading. Here's why: I think you have the wool pulled over our (your clients eyes (gosh this thing/vase I bought ...s.u.c.k.s.?..!) Please! AND I would like to challenge all you people who ingratiate yourselves in a disgusting fashion to Whitney in your response/postings. It's disgusting. I think I bring up many good points in MY responses, and none of you can see past the "glaze" to respond (see my: embrace your old lady post way back when). Whatever..
    By the way, as your pulling yourself out of your navel and GO VOTE for Obama you self-absorbed swine.

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  10. Whoa, Terrill, baby, honey... chill. Is someone feeling extra touchy as the election approaches? If you finished reading my post, which I really think you should do before going all nuclear Doctor Strangelove, you would hopefully realize I am not saying I make work that I think sucks, and then sell it. I make work that sucks and then smash it, okay? There is no wool pulling here. As for ragging on my sycophantic followers, I have two words for you: be nice.

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  11. Whoa, I just voted and I feel so much better!

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  12. ok, so I have to haunt your blog again. especially since I sort of flamed it and i'm feeling a bit guilty. What I love about blogs is they are great journals. I for instance just revisted my blog to read creation and the art of self-loathing which i think is a less evolved version of your self directive to suck (yours lacks abject whining).
    I must clarify that in my previous posts I do not infer that you make and sell sucky stuff. Rather there is this horrible myopic funk that falls on us (artsy types) occasionally and fogs our vision with a horrible mucous-like torpor. Everything looks like crap through this haze. Work rolled off thick inarticulate digits... (I don't know why its so much fun to go off on your blog like this, but its really great).
    So My point was really more that you've got the wool (or mucous) pulled over your own eyes (I'm a totally objective judge of your work of course...owning quite a bit of it now). You don't make work that sucks...

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  13. Hey Whitney, I had to comment on this post! I have been super busy the last couple of weeks, frantically trying to crank stuff out for our upcoming Christmas show, and I was just so glad to hear you express some of my own feelings about creating. I was getting really tense and irritable about everything, and finally took a break to make something that "sucks." After cranking out object after object that was made specifically to sell as soon as possible, it was nice to take a little break and make something that I will never try and sell, just for the hell of it. So I am totally signing on to your manifesto - every once in a while, take some time to make something that has no pressure to be perfect, or even to be good. Thanks! ~Lauren

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  14. I think I need to stop by here more often. You sound like me. :) Well, at least the me inside my head. I don't tell people this stuff. Good for you.

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