Permission To Suck

This isn’t the first time I’ve written this post. It probably won’t be the last time either. As a concept it is easy to express and understand, but as a way of living, of being — at least for me — it is a real challenge.

I have to give myself permission to suck. Everyday. I don’t want to suck. My ego doesn’t want to suck. It feels horrible. I want to be perfect. I want to seem erudite. I want creativity to ooze figuratively, if not literally, from every pore. Even as a non-believer a part of me wants to believe what I create to be divine, to have a connection to divinity. I want to frantically whip together a masterpiece, look at some Greek or Roman deity and in my best Joey Tribbiani voice grin and murmur, “How you doin’?

But it doesn’t work like that.

Mostly it is generating ideas, trying them out, mixing them up and seeing what seems to work. Work is perhaps the operative word here. I become more work horse than prodigy. It is not sexy. You realise you’re not particularly special. But somehow it seems worthwhile so you persist. Or maybe you give up for a while… but you always come back. Something about it keeps drawing you back in. You’ve developed a taste for it. Sometimes you may even curse this personal reality, but it’s too late.

I am taking a course on songwriting, because it seemed interesting, because I’ve written songs in the past, because a part of me will never really divorce himself from childhood dreams of being a rock star. And on the weekend I was frantically trying to weave together this song. Not even a song. The mere beginnings of such a creature. Simply a verse and a chorus about something. The assessment criteria is incredibly exacting. The verse has to be stable and the chorus has to be unstable. We have to use line length and number of lines and rhyme schemes to make them so.

Pat Pattison (who teaches the course) described the Berklee College of Music affectionately as ‘the chord factory’ and it is hard not to appreciate how apt that seems under such circumstances. It turns out too that I make a pretty ordinary factory worker. The whole experience felt like such an ordeal. My inner teenage poet writes mean couplets but seems to struggle with much else. I threatened to quit a million times. There was thrashing about and many a frustrated tweet. But I convinced myself that submitting something was better than submitting nothing. I tried to convince myself it was okay to suck even if every fibre in my body was protesting this thought.

Tomorrow I am starting a new visual artwork. It will be arduous. And it might suck too, and I might have to re-read everything I’ve typed above. And that’s okay.

1 comment… add one
  • I wanted to be Stevie Nicks!! But I couldn’t sing. And when you put yourself out on a stage it’s better not to suck. They throw beer bottles at you if you don’t know “Stairway to Heaven.” But learning & practicing craft? Nobody comes to the show without years of practice. In fact, practice is a synonym for sucking. Ask anybody:)

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