In Defense of Bad Art

In Defense of Bad Art

I’ve been hearing the words “All art is good art” a lot lately and while I agree with the sentiment, I’d like to propose something slightly different: in order to make “good” art, we must first allow ourselves to make bad art.

If I could sum up all my critiques in grad school with one phrase it would be this: “it’s not perfect, but you learned something.” Learning to be okay with making something I know is not going to be perfect has been huge. My whole life I was taught, “If you’re going to half-ass something, best not do it all.” While I do respect the sentiment of hard work behind it, in all honesty, that phrase has been responsible for years of self-loathing, perfectionism and crippling anxiety for me. Telling myself, “if you can’t do this one hundred percent, don’t even try,” was responsible for every time I thought of trying something new but backed out last minute. It was responsible for all the chances I never took on crushes in high school and even a lot of auditions I never bothered to attend because I thought “if I’m not good enough to be the best, then it’s not worth the effort or heartbreak.”

Teaching myself, after college, to be okay with sucking at things was not easy. I’m still working on it. But if I hadn’t started to purge that phrase from my vocabulary, I would never have auditioned for a physical theatre program, I would never have written and directed my first play and most importantly, I wouldn’t have made it here to Columbia.

School is for learning. Labs are for experimenting. Experimenting is for failure! While there is something to be said for hard work and effort, I don’t think that should equate to perfection. Not everything has to be perfect. Not everything should be perfect. Let your work be a little rough around the edges. I promise there is always time to refine and smooth. Don’t save your ideas for later (in my experience that’s the best way to kill them) and do the thing you’ve always been planning to do.

I always wished someone would have given me permission to suck so here you go: go forth and make BAD art. Get messy! Suck at things! It’ll be okay. The next one will be better, I promise.