Believe it or not, it’s completely ok to suck.
No really. It’s the honest truth. I promise I’m not trying to sell you anything.
As creatives, we have to make. And because we’re human, not everything we make is going to be awesome.
We are not perfect. We are fallible. We are incredibly flawed. We are not godly – not everything that comes from our hands or our minds is going to be perfectly perfect. We can’t even fathom perfect. It’s a word in our vocabulary but we don’t really understand what it means for something to be perfect because we aren’t even capable of comprehending perfect.
And that is perfectly ok.
See, as creatives, we tend to falsely believe that we are what we make.
We take personal stake in our creations. Making and building and composing is part of our identities. We can’t seem to separate the creation from the creator. It will always have our mark on it. They might as well be our children.
The thing that holds us back is that we are so not ok with something we make coming out bad.
We see something that we’ve made, that we’ve poured over, that we’ve practically birthed from our creative souls and it comes out just ok. Or even worse, it sucks.
And we can’t separate that creative failure from our own identities.
It really gets us down. It makes us feel like we are failures. It makes us feel like we shouldn’t ever try again, or that no one will accept us for who we are, that we really, truly must suck.
Here’s the thing.
Yes, we are creators. Yes, we are artists. No, we cannot separate the creation urge/ability/itch from our identities. But we are not what we make.
We are not what we make.
What a funny thing to say. It even feels sacrilegious as I type it.
We are so connected to our work that it feels wrong to put any kind of separator between us. But we are not our work in the same way that our parents are not their children.
A mother is not her son.
A father is not his daughter.
An employer is not his employees.
Even though all of these people take a large amount of accountability for those they’re responsible for, they are not the same people.
When a son commits a crime, his father doesn’t go to prison. He may feel like he failed as a dad, but he won’t be charged.
When a song doesn’t strike a chord in the hearts of millions, the songwriter isn’t damned. He simply picks up the pen and tries again.
There are two truths to songwriting: You will write more than one song. And the more you write, the better you’ll get.
You will write more than one song. It sounds obvious, but it’s a simple truth we need to be reminded of from time to time. You wrote an absolute clunker today, but you’ll live to write again tomorrow. It’s in your blood. You can’t stop. Not even if you wanted to.
You will write more than one song and the whole collection will reflect your skills as a writer. Write a terrible song today, and you won’t be damned to hell for it. You’ll write a better one soon enough.
And what about the really great songs? The really incredible pieces that shout the truth and proclaim love and pain in ways that touch people at their very core? Those songs go into the mix as well. You’ll live to write another song. Get past the bad ones first.
Songwriting is also a matter of practice makes perfect.
Just like playing an instrument or training to run a marathon. You’re going to need to do it all the time to improve. It’s the only way to truly get better. You’ll write fewer clunkers. You’ll still write them, yes, but they’ll happen less and less.
Flex your muscles and power through the really terrible songs. They are the heavy weights you need to lift in order to get to the good ones underneath.
There is a third and final truth to all of this. Keep this with you every day:
The more terrible songs you write, the better of a songwriter you will be.
The fact that you know a terrible song when you write it is proof enough that you’re smart. That you know what a good song sounds like. You have high standards for yourself, and it personally affects your mood when you don’t meet them.
Be sad and bum out for all of 5 seconds.
Then write a new one.