The fun part of having my own blog is getting to write about thoughts in great length. So, here are my thoughts on the value of doing “bad work.”
In fact, this article is an example of bad work. But that’s okay. You’ll find out why.
So, bad work.
You’ll often hear someone say…
“But, no… It has to be perfect. Like, it has to be done right.”
More often than not, it’s your artist friend. Some kind of content creator.
And this is what they say about some piece of work… they’ve yet to release.
Could be music. Art. Designs. Articles. Poems. Whatever. Now, before you and I get any deeper into this conversation, let’s clarify one thing: If you’re in the business (or hobby) of producing content and you’re stalling on “putting work out there,” you’re dangerously misguided. And if you’ve yet to put anything out and you’re still stalling, you may as lock yourself in your apartment and never come out again.
Now, that we got the name-calling out of the way, let’s talk about why.
To show you why you should “publish” early and often…
Picture a snowball.
See, I like to view progress as a snowball.
Imagine both of us are rolling snowballs down a hill. Wee! What happens? They get bigger, right?
Now, what if you stopped rolling the snowball for just 1 day… and I kept going? It’d look kind of like this:
|Your Snowball’s Diameter||
My Snowball’s Diameter
|Day 1||1 inch||1 inch|
|Day 2||2 inches||2 inches|
|Day 3||3 inches||3 inches|
|Day 4||skip||4 inches|
|Day 5||4 inches||5 inches|
|Day 6||5 inches||6 inches|
Do you see? If you rolled it on day 4 and continued on day 5, you’d be much further ahead. But because you skipped it, you lost 2 things:
- you LOST day 4’s progress
- you lost future progress that could be made possible by day 4
- And THIS you can’t really gain this back.
Because what you do today sets you up for tomorrow, the next day and 10 years from now. If you skip it, not only do you lose today, you lose tomorrow and you lose 10 years from now.
“Many a false step was made by standing still.”
If this all sounds very vague and mental to you… and it is… ask a gym rat about gym.
Gym rats, like myself, have a hard time taking days off. Why? If you know that doing crunches and dieting today impacts your tomorrow, you want to get it done. And you’ll do it tomorrow, because it impacts the next day, and so on. If your future progress is built off of what you do today, then you wouldn’t take a day off. Today means the future.
Now, suppose you started rolling your snowball 2 days ago and I started 4 days ago. We can both agree that my snowball is bigger than yours. Why? I had more time to do more work. You’re 2 days behind.
Alright, let’s bring that back to “creative work” and just work in general.
Whether publishing music, writing articles or building email lists. Let’s say we’re talking about the size of email lists. Same concept. Let’s say you opened it up 2 days ago and now have 2 subscribers. But if you opened it up 10 days ago, you’d have 10 subscribers.
If you’re an observant reader, you’re thinking…
“Alright, I get it. It’s obvious…. you should start early, blah, blah.”
And that’s the thing.
Everyone that has started and got “some results” now wishes one thing – that they started earlier. They know they can get results. But, if they started sooner… they’d have MORE results. More books. More music. More revenue. More fans. More artwork to show off.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
So if this exercise in mental gymnastics hasn’t made you feel awful already, let’s press on.
Here’s why you should publish and do bad work anyway.
1. Every first attempt at everything is awful.
This is a rule of life. Your first kiss. Your first drawing. Your school essays – which you did the night before without attempting to review and revise. Your songs. It’s all crap. Either in your mind or in everyone’s. But again, that’s a rule of life.
You need that first step.
So, you can’t get better if you refuse to put out crap.
You need to see it “out there” to understand what went wrong.
And this brings us to number two. You need to put our work because…
2. Ideas don’t fly.
Imagine going to your boss and saying, “hey, I have an idea for a design, hurr durr.” So? “But I thought it would…” Do what? You got nothing. You’re showing nothing. You have nothing.
Now, if you said, “hey, boss, here are 3 designs I came up with. Which one do you like?” Now, it’s easier to get going. Now, you’re no longer the ding-dong college kid who puts his classes on his resume as “proof of work.” You have actual work. Things to bring to the table.
This brings us to the 3rd point.
3. No-one cares.
If you’re worried about how the the audience will react, there’s a good chance that no-one cares.
The reasons for the lack of care are many. But the good news in this is, whatever criticism you expecting hoping to get… it’s not there. So, it’s okay to throw things out.
Which brings us to the 4th point…
4. People only care when you have track record.
Meaning when you have put things out there.
A track record that shows…
- You’re capable of getting things done
- That you try
- That you’re actually doing things
- And real examples of what you can offer
Fortunately or unfortunately, the way life works is… no-one cares about you until you have something going. No-one cares about the music you’re “about to make” until you have some stuff on iTunes and have music videos on YouTube. Sure, no-one is going to care if your work is terrible, but go back to point 1.
Only when you have things “rolling,” do people want to link up. And it makes sense, right? Investors don’t want to invest in newbies with no track record. And you don’t want to pay some hipster about a “video game idea” that they have…. but just need funding for.
5. Because things take time.
I recall seeing a very early Dave Chappelle standup video. Young Dave is talking about going into the belly of the beast – the Police Station – to bail out his buddy. And unfortunately, he fits a description. Unfortunately I can’t find said video now… but later on, I saw his later standup… with the very same joke. Years later. Same joke, same concept, just polished and it hit harder. Why? I don’t know why exactly but the one suspect is 1) time and 2) reviewing old ideas.
So, whatever you’re about to publish now, you can always come back to it.
And you can polish it some more.
Because with all the time passed, you’re better.
But you can’t do that if you never publish.
6. You can only improve by keeping at it.
The ability to produce work #1 means you’ll be able to do #2 and then #3.
And by doing this, you become the “insert title/content producer” that you aspire to be.
And that means… what? Yes! Doing bad work when need be.
Doing bad work also keeps the whole thing going. Because either you publish or you don’t publish at all.
And there are a few extra benefits here:
- You put in the time and practice. Good. you need that.
- You start connecting dots. You’ll get an idea for your new work based off what you did on your old piece. (Something you can only get by having created and published stuff)
- You engage with your existing work and will get ideas able to improve up old pieces. See the Chappelle example above.
7. You can only “understand” after you throw the spaghetti against the wall.
The strands that stick are signs of what you’re doing right.
Something, as mentioned earlier, you can only tell based off or reviewing old work.
And for that to happen, again… you need to do bad work.
8. You are not the judge of your own work.
You can have “good feelings.” You can have “bad feelings.” But you simply cannot gauge the result of your work.Whether it succeeds, fails or gets dead silence, this part is not up to you. It’s all up to the audience.
So, go do bad work.
And I just did mine for the day – I wrote this up without much thought, organization or proofreading.
Maybe I’ll fix it later.
P.S. Yes, it’s a good idea to review things a few days later with a pair of fresh eyes. You will find stuff you can do better. Except I’m not doing it with this particular writing. Just throwing out thoughts.
P.P.S. Did this post make you feel bad for not putting out work? I’m sorry. I too am guilty of all of this when it comes to various projects, and I’m definitely not the smartest person in the room.