Everything Creative Must Suck…

by Dan Walsh

…at first.

If something – anything – is creative, it must first suck. It must suck badly. In fact, the worse it sucks initially, the better the final product. By nature, creativity must contain an element of newness, and anything sufficiently new will be without instructions. There will be zero how-to books on the subject or technique. No map. No guidance. Sucking is the process of discovery. The failed attempts become the content for those missing how-to books.

I knew a kid named Winston. He was in my Boy Scout troop. Every holiday the scouts would sell wreathes through various means. Most of us would just sell to our relatives or immediate neighbors. We were all afraid to suck and knew these people would buy from us. Winston wasn’t afraid to suck. He wasn’t very popular, so he was already used to rejection. He sold door-to-door to the whole town. Most people didn’t buy from him because he was kind of a sucky salesman. But when the troop leaders announced the scout with the most sales, it was Winston who earned the badge. He won because he wasn’t afraid to suck.

I’m not a great photographer. I think I have an ok eye for composition, but that’s where my skill ends. “The secret to being a great photographer is to take a thousand photos and only show the single best one.” I don’t know where I read that. Maybe I was lucky and someone excellent told me that in person. Maybe I made it up in a fevered dream. I don’t know, but it’s true. Suck a lot and something great will emerge. Just show off the best stuff.

I’m not a great writer. I feel like I just babble about self-centered nonsense in most of my posts. But if I suck enough, every now and then I end up with something really good. Something I’m proud of. Something other people like too.

I was often afraid to suck. I still am. But now I know that sucking is part of the process. In fact, if I suck a lot, that should mean I’m trailblazing. If it was easier then someone has already explored this territory. Great suckage means I’m on the trail of something really creative.