Go Public With Your Bad Self?

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You know that thing you’ve been saying you want to do but haven’t been doing because you’re not good enough to do it in public and you’re terrified of being judged?

Yeah, that thing. Your art. The one that’s so closely-aligned with the fiber of your being that it’d really hurt if people didn’t like it.

Well, what if you took a different approach? What if, like Taylor Guitars founder, Bob Taylor, you committed to making more bad stuff in the name of getting to the good stuff faster? What if, gulp, instead of iterating from junk to genius in the shadows, you did it in full view of the world?

What if, in fact, you announced to the world, “I’m going to learn something new, and I’m going to share it with you every day. And right now, I’m really bad at it, because I’m just beginning, so it’s supposed to be that way. But, I’m still going to show up, to practice, to create every single day and, no matter how good or bad it is, I’m going to share it with you. Because that’s how I’m going to go from crap to craft and I need to be accountable to you to ensure I am prolific enough to get there as fast as possible.”

What do you think might happen?

Yes, at first, you may well freak out. But, here’s the thing. We all suck in the beginning. We’re SUPPOSED to suck (with the rare exception of that freakish apriori artist savant friend we all love to hate to love).

The thing that gets us from there to “Sweet Mother of God, YOU made that?!” is practice. Beginner’s mind. Being massively prolific, even if what we create on any given day is really, really bad. That, and having the vision of where we want to get to, the will to do the work, the faith that our efforts will yield progress and the sense of humor needed to forgive ourselves and be vulnerable along the way.

My guest on Good Life Project this week, artist, illustrator and author, Lisa Congdon, is an amazing example of the power of this approach.

Lisa had developed a mad-passion for curating intimate collections of stuff and she sensed there was an artform behind it. So, in 2010, she announced to the world – aka the interwebs – that she was going to create, photograph and post one collection a day. The early days saw some fumbling as she figured things out, but she got better and better at finding, curating, positioning and photographing the collections over time. She’d made a commitment to share a collection a day for a year, so the world was her accountability partner. And, day-by-day, it also became her fan base.

That project then turned into a successful book. And, by the way, one of the most popular collection was a roundup of baby doll hands.

Lisa took 2011 off, but then mounted a new quest in 2012. She wanted to learn how to hand-letter, more specifically, she wanted to learn how to write calligraphy. So, she announced that she’d create one hand-lettered work a day and share it online. Again, she knew the only way to get better was to do a ton of work, one a day, and have thousands of people online hold her accountable to that goal.

By the end of the first month, she came to learn she hated calligraphy. BUT, she also began to create her own hand-lettering form. She was having a blast and starting to get really good, hand-lettering quotes, mixing it with illustrations. It took months of daily practice, but that’s the point.

When it comes to bridging the gap between ick and art, volume matters. Click to tweet

By the end of 2012, her hand-lettering had gotten really good and she’d developed a style that was all her own. And along with that came a second book deal, featuring her hand-lettering illustrations.

And, here’s the really cool back story…Lisa came to art later in life. She never identified as an artist as a kid. Which is yet another reason her story is so inspiring. Because there are so many people out there who’ve buried their creative Jones because they either believe it’s too late or they’ll never be good enough.

Watch Lisa’s episode now:

She’s incredibly generous with her story, her wisdom, and her journey. If you’d rather listen to the mp3, just head on over to GoodLifeProject.com, sign up for updates and you’ll get instant access to the mp3 vault.

And, once you’re done, start making bad stuff every day. Announce your intention to the world and share it along the way. Because that’s the fastest path to the good stuff.

With gratitude,


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16 responses

16 responses to “Go Public With Your Bad Self?”

  1. Marie says:

    I love this blog post and the whole art discussion that is going on right now. So funny, because this year I have committed to making art every day, regardless of how scary it is, and posting it on my blog, instead of posting only “finished” pieces. Here’s to practice and Beginner’s mind!

  2. Chuck Frey says:

    Here’s what the great philosopher Yoda has to say on this subject:


  3. Marcelle says:

    Oh my gosh… can’t believe I’m only just seeing ‘Make more bad stuff’. That has to be hands down the most inspirational stance I’ve ever heard about creativity. I just LOVE IT! Guess I’m gonna have to trawl this site at some point and see what other goodies I’ve missed. But, before that, I’m gonna decide on one thing I wanna do and then go do it… badly.
    I just love this website.
    Oh yeah, the video… almost forgot, lol. Very inspirational and I’m setting the intention to have a spacious creative space of my own… that art space is too cool.

  4. Another great perspective you are sharing here Jonathan. I feel like the market today- whatever your industry- is flooded with ‘experts’, ‘ninjas’ (yuck!), and ‘gurus’. It is so refreshing to call for a return to declaring oneself a beginner, green, fresh, and teachable. People ultimately desire authentic encounters and when they can actually share in your experience of growth, courage, and development, there is sure to be a level of loyalty ‘experts’ rarely experience.

  5. Mike Essex says:

    That’s a fantastic idea. 50 Shades of Grey started off as awful fan-fiction and the author published her early drafts as she edited it. Over time she got suggestions and made it better and now has the most successful book of all time. Sure some may argue it’s not the best written book ever now but by sharing her failures originally she made it better and is now incredibly successful.

  6. […] jonathanfields.com via Chuck on Pinterest About Constance CamusRepresent and manage musicians in the Washington, […]

  7. Jonathan, what perspective and depth! Thank you for this. I stopped at the line “From crap to craft” as it grabbed me. Quite a theme.

  8. Cat says:

    I love this:

    “We all suck in the beginning. We’re SUPPOSED to suck”

    I’ve was struggling with riding horses. Never quite as good at it as all the kids who came to it when they were younger. I promised myself I would continue to pursue it, and did so until a bad injury.

    But I got better at it every day, and was even beginning to charge money for my horse riding! Something I thought would never happen! Now I’d like to use that technique to build confidence in other areas of my life.

  9. […] Go Public With Your Bad Self?, a perfectly timed (for me) and true post by Jonathan Fields, which also includes an inspiring Good […]

  10. Paul says:

    Question for the tribe here – please.

    I have a technology oriented idea. I figure I need $75-100k to get it off the ground. I could with some sacrifice, self fund, or I could try Kickstarter.

    I’m having trouble with the pros and cons of each approach. I like that kickstarter helps with an instant backlog. Doing it in public view is good motivation but working things out in the quiet is attractive too.

    Any thoughts folks?


  11. I truly enjoyed this chat. Being an artist, I feel the suck a lot. The ups and downs are all part of the process. I loved hearing about that.

    I’m also a fan of Lisa and loved hearing her story about how she came to be an artist. It’s never too late and there’s always a good reason to just start.

    Thanks! Barbra Ignatiev

  12. […] 0 It is time for me to do it. Time for me not just to make bad stuff, but go public with it. […]

  13. […] Go Public with your Bad Self. Yes! Do it! […]

  14. […] Go Public With Your Bad Self?“You know that thing you’ve been saying you want to do but haven’t been doing because you’re not good enough to do it in public and you’re terrified of being judged? Well, what if you took a different approach? What if you committed to making more bad stuff in the name of getting to the good stuff faster? What if instead of iterating from junk to genius in the shadows, you did it in full view of the world?” […]

  15. This is what I needed to read! I put up posts and I know that I’m not getting that much traffic….But I’m out there! I know that the topics that I write about are topics that have been written about many times over. But they’re from my perspective. Most have been o.k., a couple I am very pleased with, but the point is I’m out there!

    Truthfully, when I write about a topic, I am writing about it because I need to hear it(if that makes sense). If I write about mindset, it’s because thats what I need. Maybe that sounds selfish, but it helps me. And I find the more I write the more that I realize I have something to say. We all do.

    So thank you for writing this, because it confirms my belief that good or bad, you need to be out there! Appreciate it!

  16. […] Jonathan Fields of The Good Life project contemplates in his blog post, I’m going to “go public with my bad self.” In essence, I’m going to show up before I have […]