Let it be an Experiment

{A drawing from my 2012 Dots and Lines Mini Calendar available in my shop}

An old friend has been hanging around my desk recently as I work on a new writing project. He likes to whisper in my ear (OK, really he likes to shout in my ear) various abusive comments like: You Suck, This is Complete CRAP, and this work and you will never amount to ANYTHING. Or my personal favorite: How Dare you just sit down and think you can write this!

I’ve been noticing that he shows up a lot when I’m writing, especially when I’m trying to write something more “serious” (blog posts seem to be exempted). He does not however show up in the same way when I’m making visual art—I seem to be able to crank out the drawings and prints without too much of his hollering. This morning I started wondering why this is. After some contemplation, it occurred to me that the problem is not writing (I love writing), but the problem is the word “serious.” Any time I want to get “serious,” in walks Mr. You Suck.

To me, “serious” means: this must be good, and I want it to make an impact and save the world and be dynamic and wonderful and transcendent and a raving success. It means I must buckle down and really hit the mark . . . or else. Or else what? Or else I will be a complete failure and waste of a human being. Now doesn’t that sound like a wonderful place to be working from?! What fun! Sign me up!

When I’m working on visual art {or smaller bits of writing like a blog post} I have the opposite notion—I’m just playing around, and this is just one of a million different ideas I have and a million different executions (OK, maybe not a million, but you get the idea). Especially with drawing, I think of each one as an experiment—I get an idea, I execute it the best I can, and then I let it go (by either putting it out into the world, or letting it stay in my sketchbook). This is a beautiful process—it takes the pressure off and lets each work be what it is: one creative expression among many.

I’ve known for a while that this playful experimentation approach is THE KEY to sustaining a creative practice over time. It shifts the focus to process (which is really the whole point) and takes the pressure off any one piece of work as needing to be epic, which in turn frees you up to keep making. I think this is true about anything you do in life and life itself—no one day, experience, creation, piece of work is the be all and end all (even though sometimes it feels like it).

So I say to myself and to you, next time you sit down to work on your “serious” work, let it be an experiment. Do the best you can do right now and then let it go. This experiment will always lead you to another one if you let it. Have fun and let the whole thing be play.


9 Responses to “Let it be an Experiment”

  1. 1 Rosie Scribblah October 31, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Very good point you make – it’s easy to get stale and to overwork pieces

  2. 3 Kinga November 2, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I love this…and agree. You may have already seen it but the “TED talk from Elizabeth Gilbert” touches on just this kind of thing! If you haven’t seen it…grab yourself a cup of tea and settle in and watch it. I promise it will be worth it. (I can send a link if you’d like…but you can just google it too…)

    • 4 Nicole | Blue Bicicletta November 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Kinga and for the recommendation for Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk! That talk has long been one of my favorites – it makes me tear up every time! It’s just exactly what I mean! Have a wonder-filled creative day!

  3. 5 Sue Mitchell (@Sue_Mitchell) November 5, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Enjoying the process is definitely what it’s all about. If we bring curiosity and playfulness to our creative work and suspend judgment, then we can feel the joy of creativity instead of all that yucky self-flagellation.

    I love the metaphor of the science experiment. Passing judgment in advance or during the experiment would just be bad methodology. :)

    So glad to meet you. I really like the work I see here and am headed over to your Etsy shop!

  4. 7 alex sunday November 15, 2011 at 12:16 am

    firstly, i really love that drawing. :)
    i also have that negative voice, and i hear it every time i start to create for money instead of just as a hobby. i think it’s because my parents have very traditional jobs (doctor and engineer) and i felt that taking a creative path in life would be frivolous (and i’d be poor), so i’ve spent the past 15 or so years in engineering (creating in my spare time). but now i’ve just had a year off. admittedly, it’s been to have a child and be at home with her, but it’s made me re-evaluate what i want to do. it’s not engineering (though i loved my job!). so now, i just have to silence that voice. and i think i’ll take your advice and treat my designing as an experiment. already i feel the pressure slipping away….

    • 8 Nicole | Blue Bicicletta November 15, 2011 at 6:54 am

      Hi Alex! I think this is the hardest thing—trying to sort out the difference between how you think you should live, and how you want to live. It’s unfortunate that so many of us have gotten the message that being creative is not as worthy a pursuit as money (or that we can’t be creative and have money, or that it’s not OK to want to pursue creativity even if it never makes you any money, or it’s just darn frivolous to make time for being creative), and so we get so confused and caught up around it. I’m still trying to sort this out every day. Good luck to you in finding your way! I’m glad my post gave you a new insight.

  1. 1 Gingko Rose: Uncovering a Forgotten Girl Scout Skill « serene artist Trackback on November 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm

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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,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring."

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

~This Work ~

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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