Make Bad Art

If you haven’t seen Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech you should. Right now. Here’s a link for you. It’s only 20 minutes; I’ll wait. Or you can get the book. There’s a book now. I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it’s quite good.

Now you know what I’m parodying in the title, right? Good.

So why would someone who’s as big a fan of “Make Good Art” as I am write a blog post encouraging people to make bad art? I’ll tell you why; because you’re going to do it anyway.

We all make terrible art at some point in our lives. We all write stuff that’s really crummy, or perform badly, or generally blunder around not knowing what we’re doing. And we compare our current efforts to what we wish we were doing and it results in discouragement, frustration, and discontentment. We begin to worry that we’ll never turn out any good art in our lives.

Well that’s not true. It might never be considered brilliant by the rest of the world, but if you keep at it and do your best you will eventually do something you’re proud of. All it takes is determination.

But even if your worst fears come true; you never succeed in producing good art, and all you do is saturate the market with your pitiful attempts–that’s a good thing too. It’s a necessary thing. And the next time you want to complain about all the terrible art out there think of this.

If there was no terrible art we wouldn’t have any art at all.

It’s a law of nature that only a very small percentage of anything falls into the “exceptional” category. But if there was nothing to take a percentage of, would we ever get up to that level? The less art there is the world the less art there is in that 1% that’s truly remarkable. If all the bad artists gave up and went home then there would be nothing to set the great artists apart.

Bad art forms the stepping stones for good art to succeed.

Of course, no one wants to be a stepping stone. But it’s actually something to be proud of. If you are an artist, however little known, you can look at successful people and think “They got there because of me.” And even the great artists also turn out mediocre art, or just plain bad art. Everyone has something not working reading, or watching, or listening to.

We are all cogs in a great machine, and no part is unimportant. No piece is small and insignificant.

So make bad art. Do it proudly! Do it without shame and regret, or apologies for not being better. If you keep at it you will be better, and even if you never rise above mediocre-to-middling status, your work has not been in vain. Somewhere there’s a brilliant new masterpiece being created because of you.

POSTSCRIPT: When I started off on this theory of stepping stones to my dad he brought up the bell curve. The bell curve is a statistcal function that appears everywhere in nature. When I told him I was going to write a blog post on the subject, I think he thought I was going to write about the bell curve. However, even the idea that my thoughts might be backed up scientifically isn’t quite enough to make me stick my neck out in the graphing world. If you want to know the science behind the theory feel free to research it and write a blog post of your own!


Make Bad Art — 3 Comments

  1. In art school one of my professors would say that we each had a certain number of turkeys inside. Our job is to paint them out. The sooner we get them out of our system, the sooner we can move on to the great stuff! 🙂

    Thanks, Katie! I feel inspired after reading this.

  2. It’s only been in the past 2 years or so that I’ve learned to not let my malcontent with my poor quality in many artistic arenas hold me back and it’s still something I have trouble putting into practice. So thanks for the insight and encouragement!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *