Permission to Create Junk


Weight-training offers a good metaphor for scheduling creative work.

No one can’t predict whether or not you’ll set a PR (personal record) before going to the gym. In fact, there will be many days when you’ll have a below average workout. Eventually, you’ll figured out that those below average days were just part of the process. The only way to actually lift bigger weights was to continually show up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday — regardless of whether any individual workout was good or bad.

Creating design work is no different than training in the gym. You can’t selectively choose your best moments and only work on the days when you have great ideas. The only way to unveil the great ideas inside of you is to go through a volume of work, put in your repetitions, and show up over and over again. Never settle on the first-go.

Obviously, doing something below average is never the goal. But you have to give yourself permission to grind through the occasional days of below average work because it’s the price you have to pay to get to excellent work.

If you’re anything like me, you hate creating something that isn’t excellent. It’s easy to start censoring your work, judging your work and convince yourself to not share something, not trying something new or different, and not ship something because “this isn’t good enough yet.”

But the alternative is even worse: if you don’t have a schedule forcing you to deliver, then it’s really easy to avoid doing the work at all. The only way to be consistent enough to make a masterpiece is to give yourself permission to create junk along the way.


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Insight, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Permission to Create Junk

  1. Thank you for this. I can totally relate to it and I have gone through those days where no work is done just because… This will be a reminder that I need to ‘get up and start working’ no matter how crappy I feel. 🙊

  2. Carol in Denver

    How I relate! Fear of failure (something not perfect) paralyzes me often. The excitement of bringing an idea into being can overcome this but time is flying, there’s much to do and many avenues to explore.

    • Don

      Thanks Carol. I might add… no frowns allowed if it doesn’t turn out. That is what designing is all about. Seeing what works, seeing what doesn’t work, seeing how to make it better. It is a case of problem-solving, not making pretty things.

  3. Debbie Echaves

    So true and really great motivation to actually get to work thank you.

  4. Jacqueline

    Inspiring – I’ll remember (and re-read) your words tomorrow morning when I begin procrastinating on an important commission! Many thanks – I really enjoy your (all too infrequent?) posts!

  5. permission to create junk removes a lot of pressure, thus making a wider door through which the good stuff will come dancing out.

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