It Doesn’t Have to Be Good and the Art of Procastination

The sun is shining today, and this makes me want to do one thing, and one thing only: go bask in the sunlight. Unfortunately, there is this little thing called work that I need to do, and I have been doing my fair share of procrastinating lately. You see, I am working on these three different projects, all of which are a bit new and scary, and so, I keep having to give myself ultimatums to get to work.

As I was just riding my bike to run an errand, I started wondering, what is it that is causing me to fret about working on these projects? The answer came out loud and clear: the fear of them not turning out “good.”

Some time ago, I read (wish I could remember where) that procrastinators aren’t lazy, they’re just perfectionists—in fear that things won’t turn out as well as they want them to, they just keep putting off doing the work to avoid failing. I think I’ve shared this idea on this blog before because this fear often comes up in creative pursuits.

For many people, it comes up at the beginning—they don’t even try to make art because they’ve decided they could never make “good” art. For me in my current projects, it is coming up more towards the middle. I get really excited about ideas and new starts, but I’m getting stalled up at the point where I actually need to finish the project. Each time I sit down to work, I am further committing to the idea, which can be scary if you haven’t quite decided how “good” the idea is to begin with.

The real problem here is not the work, it is the labeling. “Good” is the problem.

The truth is:

It doesn’t have to be good.

This is a hard concept to grasp, and I need to remember it too, so I’ll say it again:

It doesn’t have to be good.

Your brain may be having a conniption fit right now, but it’s true. Let me explain: There is no way to make a “good” piece of art—all you can do is make a piece of art. You will never be able to anticipate what people’s reactions will be, or how the work will fit into the grand scheme of all of your art or the world. As an artist, your main job is to make art that is honest and means something to you. Art is a process—the making of each piece of art leads to the next piece of art, and that’s all you can do—keep making the next piece.

Looking back on the art I’ve made in the past couple of years, I know this to be true. Sometimes making art can feel like running around blindfolded with crayons between your toes—you’re just doing the work and don’t know what will happen, or where it will lead you. But somehow it does just that—it leads you, without you knowing it. One project leads to another one and suddenly, you are six months out and piecing together things you didn’t even know about when you got started. It’s amazing.

Now is the point in the blog post when I realize I have been having a little discussion with myself here—I needed to be reminded of these things very much. I hope these ideas are also helpful to you.

Are you getting stalled up on starting or finishing a project? What are you afraid would happen if you just jumped in? While planning can be a good thing, sometimes you just need to jump in and get to work. Speaking of which . . . I’m off to the drawing board. Happy Making!

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8 Responses to “It Doesn’t Have to Be Good and the Art of Procastination”


  1. 1 Malea January 27, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Lovely post! I am a middle-of-the-project procrastinator as well. You hit the issue on the head…HUGE perfectionist here! HUGE!

  2. 2 artproject2010 January 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    OMG, seriously, this is so important. Two days ago I was very frustrated working on a painting and I tried telling myself “LISTEN SELF, it doesn’t have to be good! Just f-ing make it and shut up”. Of course, my self then said “OF COURSE it has to be good, what the hell do you know?” and then I ignored both of them and just finished it. But it can be really freeing to remember this. Thanks for the reminder!

    Marianne

  3. 3 Jenny January 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    You nailed me with this: “For many people, it comes up at the beginning—they don’t even try to make art because they’ve decided they could never make “good” art.” I’m so afraid to do art, because I will judge it as not good enough.

    When it comes to my work, I usually get stalled about three-quarters through with those perfectionism fears. Once it comes to my attention, I stare the fear in the eyes, realize it’s not too big, and get on with it. Usually :-)

    Thanks for sharing how it shows up for you! Love the picture, by the way!

  4. 4 Eileen January 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    I used to teach art links in my kids elementary school and I always told them, art is different for everyone. Give any 3 artists the same thing to paint/draw/photograph and you will get 3 different products. Your art is as unique as you are!

  5. 5 bluebicicletta January 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Great stories! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m so glad that we are all getting and telling ourselves the same message: Keep making art! Yay for art!

  6. 6 Geoff M. Pope January 27, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    What a resplendent simile: “Sometimes making art can feel like running around blindfolded with crayons between your toes—you’re just doing the work and don’t know what will happen, or where it will lead you.”

    And thank you for this vital reminder: “As an artist, your main job is to make art that is honest and means something to you.”

  7. 7 tiffany January 28, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    This is definitely hitting home with me. I have found myself super excited about so many projects recently, but just haven’t had the push to get started. And I think it all comes down to a fear of not doing it right or well or successfully or whatever.

    Thanks for the reminder that it doesn’t have to be good…but just may be.


  1. 1 When I Grow Up – The Blog » Blog Archive » Link Love: January 2010 Trackback on January 28, 2010 at 1:47 am

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Hello there! My name is Nicole K. Docimo, and I am an artist and writer from the U.S.A. but currently residing in Zurich, Switzerand. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Some Thoughts

"Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
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~Rumi

{from "Joy at Sudden Disappointment"
translated by C. Barks.}

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Unless otherwise noted, all images and writings on this blog were created by me, Nicole K. Docimo aka Blue Bicicletta. If you would like to share anything you see here for inspirational purposes online, I just ask that you kindly let folks know where you found it. If you are wanting to share/reproduce any of my work in any other way, or have any questions about how you will be sharing the work in relation to copyright, please contact me directly at nkdocimo {at} gmail {dot} com. Thanks!

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