Revisiting Permission to Suck and Listening to Springsteen

Revisiting Permission to Suck and Listening to Springsteen

Six months ago I was asked a series of questions for Talent Zoo by writer Sara Barton, here are some of the questions with my answers.  There are over 20 questions, but I’ll post installments updating where necessary.

How did you decide on the title of your blog, Permission to Suck? What’s that about?

The blog “Permission to Suck” has actually been around for 5 or 6 years but it’s only been since August ‘09 that I’ve transformed it into something more comprehensive including original video interviews.

One of my close friends, Will McFarlane, and I regularly discuss our careers as creative professionals – he’s a professional guitarist and I’m a photographer. It surprised us just how many parallels there are between the two creative disciplines.

Early on we were lamenting about how hard it can be to try something new because after a long career there is a tendency to feel as though every new thing has to be a masterpiece.  It feels as though your reputation rides on your next photo or your next song; one false move and you’re discovered for a fraud.  I’m not sure when exactly, but at some point, “what we need is Permission To Suck” was uttered and it stuck.  A few days later I had a blog with that name and a month after that I wrote a 1000 word essay titled Permission To Suck that got some traction.

So, do creatives need permission to suck?

Freedom to fail is the disinfected version but, yes, we need it if we hope to grow professionally. As soon as you default to your “A” game – frequently necessary – creative growth is slowed. As Steven Johnson discussed at length in Where Good Ideas Come From, the “adjacent possible” is virtually ignored in favor of what we know works.

Simultaneous with developing an “A” game you hear leaving your mouth: “well, it’s my style”. Without question, it’s great to have a style but be true, are you creating work to fit a style or is your creativity leaving a wake that has style?

It’s easy to say I’m fearless; I’m pushing myself, but very hard to actually “do” in my opinion.  It’s hard to force oneself to be uncomfortable and accept inevitable failure – which is very uncomfortable by the way – especially for those who work for their food.  It’s easier to go with what you know.

I suppose the key is to keep rowing; move the boat.  Embrace Permission to Suck but through hard work, refuse to suck. If you keep moving it’s still possible to steer the boat and discover Steven Johnson’s adjacent possible.

My all-time favorite article is the “Creative Manifesto.” Can you tell me what inspired it?

Most of what I write echoes personal creative tensions. I get bored with myself easily. It’s as though every 4-5 year I had hit another wall. To be clear, I don’t take this as one of my better traits.

In this case, I started reading about creativity and while everything I read had a good message, it left me wanting. It all sounded so removed from a professional’s reality and the advice, on its face, sounds so pat and easy, whereas to me it felt convoluted and enigmatic, a.k.a Effing hard. I wrote the first draft in 30 minutes; I think I was in a mood. I reread it often so I don’t forget what I promised myself – it’s still hard but the Manifesto breaks it down for me.

Like I said, there is plenty of similar stuff written about creativity, but the PTS manifesto was aimed at professional creatives; those who make art & creativity a career choice. My hope is that it sounds as if you wrote it when a little pissed off at falling victim to your need to create. Besides, it’s trendy to have a manifesto isn’t it?

Listen to this NPR Podcast with Ed Norton and Bruce Springsteen

Fans recognize the brilliant genius of Bruce Springsteen, but I think creative professionals can all relate to the process he describes in this Fresh Air podcast. Springsteen’s motivation and passion informed his style not the reverse.  In my opinion, it is the key to a long career as a professional creative.

you’re usually motivated by fear … I was afraid of losing myself, it is possible for your talent to be co-opted, and your identity moved and shifted to a place there you weren’t prepared for.” – Bruce Springsteen

Artistic Expression, Creativity, Permission to suck, Podcast, PTS Manifesto

2 Responses to “Revisiting Permission to Suck and Listening to Springsteen”

  1. Kristin Says:

    How great was that Springsteen interview? It totally supports what you’ve been talking about on PTS. Please see my current FB status for proof that it, too, moved me.

  2. webpage Says:

    It. Unusual for any fish species, with the females, as they get older, thrir sex can change to male.

    Iput a small amount of water in a plastic cup and
    quietly stood in front of my dog, without saying a word.


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