Why creating a lot of rubbish is a must for learning
If you have been following me on the intranet you would have noticed that I have been creating a cartoon every day for about eight months.
When I joined the cartoon drawing course I couldn’t even draw a decent circle. The course started with drawing circles. For one whole week, I drew nothing but circles. Lots of circles. Circles for seven days straight. Big circles, medium circles, small circles, tiny circles, circly circles. Most of those circles were no good. But I drew them anyway.
That circle drawing exercise was equivalent to creating rubbish. All that practice led to develop muscle memory. By the end of the week, I was able to draw almost round circle, of any size.
All artists create a lot of rubbish.
Take any photographer, or a painter or a writer. They all generate a lot of rubbish all the time. They do so knowingly.
Stephen King writes 2000 words every day, without fail. Do you think all those words go into his books? Let’s do the maths. At 2000 words a day, he is writing 90,000 words in three months. Which means he should be churning out at least three books a year. Yet he comes up one or at the most two books a year. Which means only a fraction of his daily words makes it to his books.
What about the rest of the words? They were rubbish. They went straight to the bin.
Creating rubbish is part of the deal. Here are three reasons for that.
1. Creating Rubbish gives practice.
Learning a new skill takes a lot of practice. Initially, when we start we know our work is no good. We are learning the craft. We are trying to be good. We have potential but we are not there yet.
Creating rubbish frustrates. We think we have no talent and we want to give up. Many people do. They never get past creating rubbish phase. They quit. They give up because they think they don’t have the special thing that they want.
If you are just starting or you are going through this phase you got to know that it is normal. You need to keep reminding yourself that you must do a lot of practice in order to get to the level you want to be at. It is only by creating a lot of rubbish that you will develop enough muscle memory to become good.
2. In that rubbish, you will find nuggets.
When I started writing for this site, I struggled to come up with ideas to write about. My posts were tiny, just a few paragraphs, and they were not fluent at all. But now an then I would write a post which would stand out. Even now, when I read my old posts I wonder and ask myself, did I write it.
The same thing happens with my diary writing. Most of the stuff is straight rubbish but some of the insights and thoughts I have come up there are priceless.
They are nuggets that justify all those unnecessary words. They helped figure out what I really wanted to say.
Julia Cameron the writer of The Artist’s Way advises to highlight those nuggets and keep them to use in your other writing.
3. Creating rubbish helps learning stick to memory.
Daniel Coyle tells the story of a thirteen-years-old Clarissa(not her real name) in his book The Talent Code. Clarissa is a mediocre music student. Her only reason to learn to play clarinet is “because I’m supposed to.”
Clarissa’s practice is captured in a video for the music psychologists Gary McPherson and James Renwick who were flabbergasted by what they learned from a six-minute clip.
Clarissa is working on a new song, “Golden Wedding.” She listens to the song a few minutes then draws a breath and plays two notes. Then she stops. She pulls the clarinet from her lips and stares at the paper. Her eyes narrow. She plays seven notes, the song’s opening phrase. She misses the last note. She immediately stops. She squints again at the music and sings the phrase softly. She starts over and plays the riff from the beginning makes a few notes further into the song.
She continues to do that, stopping at each mistake, correcting it, starting from the beginning, and moving a bit further into the song. What Clarissa is doing is learning from her mistakes and making the learning stick to memory.
In the beginning, when I was able to draw my first few cartoons, I was ecstatic. I thought they were great. But as I drew more and more I discovered my earlier attempts were not just bad but pathetic.
My brain learned to spot the rubbish.
Now, eight months into the course, I know that most of my work will be no good. But I must continue to create if I want to become good at them. And in there, there will be some nuggets worth saving.
That gives me the reason to keep on creating more rubbish.