Throw it away…

Having been in the technical field for over 10 years (software development and system administration) and having been in the artistic field for the last 10 years (graphic design and character animation) I have, among other things, had the opportunity to see some similarities between the two fields. One similarity that stands out in my mind is that I have had to throw away a lot things I have created in both fields. I have had to throw away bad code that I have written and I have had to throw away bad designs or bad animations I have made. That’s not to say I’ve arrived and can now code, design or animate perfectly, but suffice to say that when you are being creative (technically or artistically) you will have to throw away things that you have created. Bad code needs to be tossed in favor of good code. Bad designs needs to be tossed in favor of good designs. Bad animation… well, you get the picture.

In the process of learning it is a given that you will create something and it will be destined for the garbage pile. You will do a sum and get the wrong answer. So you will have to start over and try again. To draw a nice straight line you will have to draw a lot of crooked lines that will need to be erased or drawn over. To animate believable movement you will have to animate a lot of bad movement. It’s about that ‘thing’ your Mom always told you when you were taking piano lessons – “practice, practice, practice”. How many bad notes on the violin did that instrument belch before you got one right? So the point is, you will – guaranteed, have to throw things away. They will be bad, ugly, horrible, terrible, stoopid, dumb…. sigh… now you feel like giving up, don’t you? It all depends on how you look at it. It’s all about the destination, right? Sure it is. You want to draw well, or animate well, or play that violin well. But it is also about the journey to the destination. The process of getting to the point where you are doing ‘well’ (or at least better!).

Chuck Jones (aka Bugs Bunny et al) quoted one of his instructors that said to him: “All of you here have one hundred thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone.” Get it? If you think about the bad drawing or the bad animation as a stepping stone to the good one (or better one), it makes it a lot easier to throw it away and move on to the next one.

The ‘gotcha’ is perserverence. Take, for instance, someone learning to draw. Let’s say that they are ambitious and decide to draw something fairly complex on their first try. Obviously they will make a mess of things and it won’t look good (okay, there may be a rare case, but generally speaking – work with me). After their abysmal failure they have a choice to make. Do they go on or give up drawing? 99.99% will give up because they don’t have the passion or perserverence to keep at it. The same is true for animation. If you have just created an animated piece and it sucks, don’t fret. Throw it away! Learn from your mistakes, and step onto the next stepping stone. It takes time, practice, hard work and perserverence so hang in there. Oh, one side note – if you’ve been at it for 20 years and you haven’t improved, maybe it’s time to try something different ;o)