Last month, you read a beautiful reflection on conscientious creative consumption, written by our Creative Manager, Obiekwe Okolo. I loved the perspective that time given to a craft — ours or someone else’s — reflects, on one level, how fully we know it. I don’t disagree. Time spent is indivisible from both creation and consumption; in a way it’s what proves to us that something has happened. This month, however, I want to explore the value in gently cupping that time in our hands, crumpling it into a ball, and tossing it into the garbage.
If January burdens us with the expectation of improvement and modification, February, in turn, would greet us with the crushing disappointment of defeat. By now, you may have already “failed” whatever you set out to do this year. Terrific. Scrap it. You have not yet lost anything, but the insistence on “seeing things through” for completion’s sake, regardless of how unrelated or useless that effort may be to your goals, creative pursuits, and personal happiness, can cost you much more.
Sometimes (read: constantly), as creatives (read: people), we commit an extraordinary amount of time and energy to something which often goes nowhere, breaking our hearts, thinning our hair, and giving us indigestion. It feels like nailing an audition and filming a scene, only to have it cut from the movie. It’s like you were never there, a waste, “What was the point?”
Yet, those who have experienced the entrance and exit of love, for example, know that just because you’ve labored doesn’t make the leaving a loss. To have tried one path and taken another does not dishonor where you’ve already walked. It does not diminish the learning and the changing. To try anything good in earnest is lovely; this is a universal truth.
So, when we find ourselves shouldering through a concept (or even our craft itself, our own identity) in the names of diligence and discipline rather than goodness, truth, and beauty, it’s time to take a moment, collect ourselves, and consider a break-up.
Unhelpful perfectionism can present as eternal tweaking or constantly slamming doors closed, but the noble, difficult work of making good things exists somewhere in between. I am not saying that we should never see things through, try hard, or sit with the struggle of doing, but rather that every moment is a new opportunity to try afresh. January isn’t special in its own right. February certainly isn’t either. Whatever you want to do, you can do it, and you can do it right now. And if what you presently have in your hands isn’t getting you there, give it a kiss and throw it into the sea.
All that you’ve poured into your darling has not been in vain, because it brought you here: the perfect moment to let it go.
Nobody wants to waste their time, but the perception of “waste” tends to take important matters on long, winding detours out of an insistence to not turn around. Imagine if, rather than tinkering endlessly against the leaky kitchen pipes, plumbed with rubber bands and glue, we saved our time and money by simply replacing the sink. Imagine if, rather than insisting on systems and ideas already in place, we gutted the kitchen and dreamt up something new.
Isn’t that where creativity begins, anyways? Imagination is the big question mark at the start of a new idea, a blank piece of paper and a big fat crayon. Where else do new ideas come from if not at the end of an old one?
In his book, The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis uses the metaphor of a child’s play to teach his audience about God, but I believe it offers us a picture of our nature, too:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about … like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies … because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.
So, throw it out, whatever it is. Scrap it and start over. You’ll only dip your toes in the ocean, once you’ve stomped out of the muck.
By Sarah O'Malley ,Bittersweet Creative Senior Designer