Please make rubbish!

Today I read yet another ‘you should only work when inspired’ comment on a post about creativity.

Wah, wah, wah. Cry me a river, newbie.

This idea that you should only work when inspired otherwise you make rubbish is a load of bollocking crap. Making rubbish is the important part.

Making rubbish is how you learn.

Making rubbish is how you improve.

Making rubbish is how you exercise your creative muscles.

All artists, even the best ones, make rubbish. The smart ones appreciate it and understand its part in the creative process.

You don’t have to show people your rubbish. But you do have to make it.

So yes, you do bloody have to show up and make your work every day – or as often as you can possibly manage.

Do you think that athletes show up for the Olympics hoping to be inspired? No, they train and train and train and then hope to do their best on the day. And when they don’t, they spend time asking themselves what went wrong and how they can do it better next time.

Splashdown
Creative Commons License photo credit: cmaccubbin

Do I believe in inspiration?

Hell yes! I’ve felt it. I know it exists. And like most artists I live for that particular drug, angel-sweet in my mind.

But I also know for a sure and solid fact that inspiration tends to show up more often when you’re already doing the work. Like a garden, inspiration grows best when the ground is tended and fertile. And that means lots of digging and a hell of a lot of manure.

Colours
Creative Commons License photo credit: Scarleth White

So get out there, my darlings and make the very best rubbish you can; you’ll grow prettier flowers in the end.


About Kirsty

I am an artist & purveyor of mad obsessive projects based in Hebden Bridge, England. My work involves the accretion of large numbers of small objects - pins in fabric, knots in string or hundreds of envelopes - to make sculptures that deal with fragility, loss, repetition, obsession and time.

32 Comments

  1. well said Kirsty, thank you. The rubbish is a truly inspiring process anyway. It inspires us to make it better, to learn from what is crap. I loved a tweet from Alain de Botton which is relevant here: 'Bad art might be defined as a series of unfortunate choices about what to show/explain and what to leave out.'

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    Exactly! The first step in being any kind of creative person is to have a huge emotional tolerance for making rubbish. The second is to develop an instinct for what's actually halfway good.

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  2. i wholeheartedly agree!

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  3. Love this! If I only worked when inspired, I would never make or write anything! Seriously, there are very few pieces that I can point to as having been born from a great inspirational flash that didn't need any work or trial-and-error on my part. Inspiration's a gift. What kind of annoying person demands a gift every day? : )

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    Oh that's so perfect, Michelle – you're so right, inspiration is the gift part.

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  4. Know what I love best about making rubbish? When you set it as the goal, It's *very* hard to fail at it!

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    Hahaha, that's hysterical, Tori. But yes, it takes the pressure off if you just start out thinking, 'right, I'm just going to start and see what happens'.

    Besides, it's all in the editing. If we read everyone's first draft, we'd think there wasn't a single good writer in the whole wide world!

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  5. Yes, this is exactly what's been stopping me. I've written so much crap in my life that I got sick of looking at it, sick of hearing it in my head as I repeated the same shit over and over. I just keep going in circles. Can't even make up new crap. Same old crap.

    But, once in a while, there's something new in there, if I dig around in the crap long enough. It's a dirty job, though.

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    It can get really boring when everything feels like crap, can't it. But creative people learn to put on their wellies and keep wading.

    And I love your writing, LaVonne – remember, just because you're bored with it, doesn't mean other people are. What seems like old hat to you might be a brand new and very exciting idea to me.

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    LaVonne Ellis Reply:

    Oh, I wasn't talking about the stuff I actually post. This is the whiny, me-me-me, journal crap that I'd be embarrassed to have anybody see. Must remember to destroy it all before I die!

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    Oh god, that stuff – yes, it's always the same damn issues over and over. I think we all need a good friend who will come round after our death and destroy our teenage poetry, our embarrassing journals and our sex toy collection!

  6. fab!! and we need to make rubbish in many many ways. Good post!

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    Thank you, Shona.

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  7. Hear bloody hear! I sometimes get my best ideas when I'm making rubbish. I sometimes don't spot it when I've been grumpily making the rubbish to spot the point when it turns into gold dust but when I come back to it a day or two later I see the direction I need to be going in.

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  8. Most of my rubbish lives in my sketchbooks.

    I'm a big believer in regularly creating. For me that means several times a week, not everyday. I have chronic ill health so everyday is impractical. Several times a week means it happens offen enough that I don't forget about it, and I feel satisfied with my practice.

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  9. I write music – one in every ten songs is quite good.
    So you got to write the other nine to get the quality

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  10. So true i use to look at my "off "day as something blah blah ,but after returning to theses pieces for insprations they haven't failed me yet so gor for it everyday!It grows you in so many ways Thanks for reminding me !!!

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  11. bags I have, huge bags full of the bad stuff, the crap, the testpieces, the really ugly stuff. Even though I throw them out regularly. :) it gives me knowledge, about materials, about the movement of my hands, about me. So yep, agree. ;)

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  12. Great, utterly true rant. Love it. I can barely move for all the rubbish I've made, but it is also the inspiration for many, perhaps most, of the best things I made.

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  13. I could not agree more. My muse is a fickle damned fairy who cannot be relied upon to show up when work needs to be done. :o)

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    It would be nice if they would turn up on time but that's the problem with muses. I often suspect that my own personal muse spends a lot of the year gadding off to Caribbean islands to drink cocktails, flirt with men and get a nice all over tan. Certainly she never seems to be around when I want her. Then she shows up at 3am when I'm trying to get to sleep and won't shut up! It's like having one of those exhausting and frustrating friends who you can't give up because they're just so fascinating.

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  14. Think about artists that took orders from Royalty; how about sculptors that knocked out funerary urns by the thousands? Or African mask makers whose work had to be precise, in order to keep the evil spirits away? (Did they consult their muse)?

    Tribal Art Hunter

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    Exactly Stacey, it's all about the process and the only way that you get skilled is through that continuous process.

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  15. I know I am late is saying this… but your blog inspired me to write about making rubbish… http://baterbys.blogspot.com/2011/08/making-rubbi… … I really enjoy reading your work!

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    That's OK, Natalia, I am hopelessly late in replying! Nice to see your blog post about Miro, I love his work.

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  16. This is definitely the way to go. I sometimes go through periods of not making very much and waiting for the elusive inspiration to come, but what I try to do most days is draw for practice and not worry about whether it's rubbish or not. It's so important to keep working.

    Really like your blog; I'm subscribing!

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    Thanks Steven, welcome to the blog. I hope your daily drawing practice is going well.

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  17. That is awesome as long as we all believe that rubbish is just disposable but indeed not all that is disposable is to be thrown away and not all the new things are necessary good ones.

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    kirstymhall Reply:

    We're talking about two different things here, I think. I am talking about the creative process and how vital it is to make LOTS of stuff so that you eventually get to the good work. Writers don't publish the first draft of their novels and visual artists often need to paint over a canvas several times before they get something they're happy with. It's about not believing that you have to do something right the first time, that's a recipe for creative disaster in my experience.

    It's also not about new ideas versus old ideas. An artist might explore one single idea for the whole of their life but they still need to be constantly making iterations of that idea.

    I'm also not talking about throwing things out. If you click on the link in the article, you'll see that I often keep my own rubbish art work so that I can learn from it.

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  18. I only worked when inspired, I would never make or write anything! Seriously, there are very few pieces that I can point to as having been born from a great inspirational

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  19. It's funny. Even some of the work I created when I was "inspired" seems like rubbish now. You can't be your own worst critic. Create and move on. Never stop creating or moving on.

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  20. Thank you so much for this beautiful reminder. I am a dancer who is trying to make a dance choreography. My idea got stuck and I refused to work as I felt embarassed looking myself in the mirror. But YES. You are right. I need to work and produce more rubbish in order to get the good one!

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