Doing Things for Yourself & The Benefit of Unpublished Work

May 22, 2012

I was struggling this week with what to talk about. I sat starting at a blank page for what felt like hours begging for the inspiration to come. I started to look through my draft articles hoping that a past explored idea might jump out at me and evoke a new article of genius…and then it hit me. I’ve written a lot of articles that I’ve never published. For various reasons really, but when I looked at them all as a collective group I realised something striking – that in every single instance the unpublished works are ones that have been written more for myself than the benefit of others. There isn’t really an overall message or lesson within them, but I find writing writing very cathartic, and the time I’ve spent writing these articles has actually been time spent working through certain ideas or problems in my mind.

Some of the articles have gone on to build the foundations of other ideas (workshop topics, things for the print magazine, the beginnings of other posts) while the rest have just sat there, for no one else to see. It’s also probably no coincidence that the majority of these unpublished works tend to be my way of dealing with negative experiences or feelings. I guess it’s been a little like writing a diary. No one else needs to read it for it to serve it’s purpose.

So I started wondering if any of you ever do the same with whatever line of work you’re in. Photographers, do you ever do shoots and never share them? Designers, do you ever draw up concepts that never make your final collections? I would imagine some of you do, but for the rest of you, if not I’d encourage you to do it. Sometimes when I decide it’s best not to publish something I feel deflated, like I’ve wasted hours on something that no one else is going to see. This is entirely flawed thinking as to explore and experiment without the constant need to share is actually completely freeing. It enables you to be honest with yourself and explore ideas you otherwise wouldn’t for fear of of judgement. Maybe it’s something dark, or scary, or just simply irrelevant to your line of work. That doesn’t mean that spending some time exploring it is time wasted.

Social media and blogging are fantastic for so many reasons, but the downsides do include the fact that a lot of us probably feel the need to always be sharing something new. To be seen to be always coming up with exciting and interesting new ideas.

“Oh but I’m just so busy to do anything just for myself” is an excuse we fall back on over and over, and I would imagine many of you are now thinking, but maybe it’s not busyness that’s the problem but apathy. Are we stifling our own creativity with the false idea of having no time to improve? Why is it that without other people’s approval we feel like things aren’t worth exploring?

We’ve spoken about the benefits of personal projects in the Green Room before, about how they can improve your skills and make you grow as an artist, but today I’d encourage you to think about projects or ideas you can explore without letting the fact that others will eventually see it hinder your creativity. Go wild and experiment, you never know where it might lead.