Most of us have heard about Aerosmith, one of the most iconic bands in music history.
The band has quite a few rituals – some pre-show, some post-show, and others revolving around the music they create. Among these, there is one that is particularly interesting.
The band holds a weekly meeting where each member presents a new idea, even if they themselves think it’s bad or embarrassing. Most weeks the ideas put forward are really terrible and nine times out of ten they are thrown out the window on the spot.
Every once in a while though, that one time out of ten, an idea comes along that makes everyone respond ‘You know what? This could work!’ And these are the ideas that have led to some of their greatest hits such as ‘Love in an Elevator’ and ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’.
They call this weekly meeting ‘Dare to Suck‘.
Ed Sheeran, widely regarded as one of the best songwriters of our time, describes his songwriting process in a similar vein. In a documentary about the singer, we are told that there is no real mystery around the process; he just writes everything that comes to mind. The start is not too impressive, but soon, almost as if someone has flipped a switch, the magic begins.
Neil Gaiman (#1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 20 books) alludes to an almost identical process in his Masterclass.
If we follow the pattern, we see that a lot of the top creative minds produce their work in this fashion. When they sit down to write, they let all their ideas flow without self-judgment or criticism. Initially, the ideas they write down are muddy, unrefined and quite frankly bad by even their standards. But once these impurities are allowed to be flushed, suddenly a point comes when strong ideas begin to flow and that’s when their genius comes out.
Often when we are working on something, we don’t allow our mind to clear itself before it can produce high quality output. This applies in all scenarios; an important presentation, creating marketing content, or the desire to learn something new. If we resist our bad ideas and don’t let the fog clear, we can never reveal our best work.
In fact, this is also the reason why we don’t start most things. We think our ideas are not refined or not good enough and instead of letting them out in order to uncover our deeper thoughts, we keep them locked up and use them as an excuse to delay the activity.
So next time you’re working on something, begin by writing down every single thought you have, unfiltered and without restriction. Remember that to get to the gold, you have to dig through the dirt. Remove all distractions, remove any self-criticism and self-judgment, and just let the ideas bleed.
Continue doing this regularly and see if you get to the point where novel ideas start pouring out – and I bet you get to that point sooner than you think! I bet you come up with things that you didn’t know were hiding in a dark corner or crevice in your mind. I bet you discover another part of yourself. Because we all have those novel ideas inside us, buried under the messy input we receive from the outside world every second of every day.
Just let yourself be terrible first. Dare to suck.