Small and Crappy

When you set out to create something new, I bet the last words that enter your mind are “Gee, I should make something small and crappy.” It doesn’t exactly sound like a high aspiration, does it? It may, nevertheless, be just what you need.

Let’s say you’re working on a project. You know it’s going to be great, and you’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time. You have a deadline, and it’s comfortably far off, but only barely. And nothing’s happening. Everything you try is crap. It doesn’t look right, it doesn’t feel right, you know you’ve seen other people do better work, and you just want to throw in the towel.

That deadline, though…that deadline is looming, and you need something to show or you’ll be a complete failure. You’ll be humiliated. The prospect is so awful that you can barely think about it, so you wander off and treat yourself to a few episodes of 30 Rock or How I Met Your Mother or the novel you’ve been deep into.

Sometimes, it’s good to take this sort of break. If you’re doing it every day and getting nothing done, though, it’s not a break anymore. It’s a lengthy stay in the land of denial, and it is probably compounding your frustration and despair.

Try Something Different

This is exactly the moment when you need to embrace “small and crappy.” Do something. It doesn’t have to be good. It can be downright awful. You can deliberately make it downright awful. Or ridiculous. Or just fun. And it sure shouldn’t be big. Just a little thing. A few paragraphs, a doodle, a twirl in your dance studio…just a little bit of something not very good.

The genius of “small and crappy” is that it gets you out of all that panic and despair. You can laugh at it. Better, you can laugh at yourself. And in the process, you free up the energy you’ve been using to hold yourself back. You might just discover that there’s something hidden in the crap that’s worth using, or considering, or that shows you something you hadn’t thought of before.

The next time you find yourself ignoring your creativity—or just plain running scared from it—because you’re not producing what you think you want, give small and crappy a try. (Or give it a whirl just for kicks!) You may very well be surprised by what you find there!

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