Getting Creative Advice on Failure: Make it Mighty Ugly
In August, I finally registered to go to a Creative Mornings talk but found out all the tickets were sold out. I put myself on the wait list and to my surprise I was drawn from the wait list to receive a ticket. Not only did I go, but I won the book Make It Mighty Ugly written by the speaker Kim Werker! Surely this is a sign from above that I must read this book and that something wonderful might happen. Creative Mornings is also a great way to hear inspiring stories directly from local creatives and to feel a part of a creative community.
Listening to her talk and after reading her book, Kim’s story really resonated with me. I wasn’t alone in my struggle in my search for creativity in my life. She not only confirmed the doubts and struggles I experienced but her strategies reassured me that I was on the right track with the choices I had made. It made me smile that she referenced people that also spoke to me like Brene Brown and Ira Glass, who I wrote about in a previous post. I also didn’t even know that there was a void in my life until I started making art regularly. I had the same question in my mind that in her book Lauren Bacon articulated “What do you need to have to experience in order to feel you lived a good and fulfilling life?”. For a long time the answer was I need to make art and it finally led me to pick up my paint brush again. If this book somehow could have been sent back in time to me, how many heartaches and headaches it would have saved me! Check out the video of her talk and the questions at the end are great too.
Kim Werker’s book is packed with thought provoking yet practical activities. I particularly liked the first exercise about listing all the things I’m good at and then explaining the “heart” of what I’m good at. It was a welcome reminder that I do have a lot to offer and that I need to give myself a pat on the back more often.
Her approach to embrace making something deliberately ugly intrigued me. She found it freeing and it enhanced her ability to be creative. So much so that she runs workshops about it. She exclaims “If you fail [at making something ugly], then you got something pretty.” So no worries right?
I decided to try this exercise for myself and make an ugly creature. I followed the book’s instructions gathered materials from around the house as best as I could. At first I was excited by the challenge but let me tell you that it was hard to make something ugly. I was so used to the idea of making objects aesthetically pleasing that I had to keep changing and adding things for it to be ugly “enough”. It wasn’t cute or pretty but it sure was tacky and bizarre. It probably goes to show that it would be hard for me to make a “horrible” painting. I deliberately had to make things clash and be more sloppy about the workmanship. I liked working quickly. I didn’t care too much about it because it wasn’t precious to me. I noticed this to be somewhat of a relief as I often spend too long fussing over paintings. I could see how it would help get me out of a creative rut. As the exercise suggests, I have named the creature Deborah. Her story is that though she has lived a sheltered life, she is extremely patriotic, resourceful and eager to explore the world.
Make It Mighty Ugly is a resource that I will be going back to on a regular basis. I have only done just a few of the activities but there is always room to challenge yourself further. This book encourages you to take an honest look at the limitations you unknowingly put on yourself, holding you back from doing what you really want to do. I thank Kim for her courage and willingness to share her stories. One of her final thoughts that I like is “Mistakes are easier to handle when we keep in mind that we can always try again”. It’s called being human. Yes to that!!!