There exists a dark side of creativity. It’s the challenging, frustrating, and overall shitty side of creativity. Navigating through this ugliness is what separates the casual creator from the serious one. This ugly space is the point when most people turn back and walk back the way they came — moving forward seems like too much damn work. It’s a line in the sand, except you have to not only step over that line, but you need to keep walking until you get to the water and then keep going until the water is over your head. When you can’t touch the bottom and you have to tread water just to stay afloat — when you reach that lovely point, you’ll know you’re there.
Many people think creativity is a pain-free, happy, and inspiring thing that results in beautiful works of art, a well-designed home, or other charming creations. It certainly can be all of those things, and will be at times. But, every creator knows what it feels like to hit the wall where the project begins to show resistance. That space of resistance is where Ugly Creativity exists. Ugly Creativity is both the struggle when facing resistance, but is also the grit, perseverance, and ingenuity shown in the face of adversity during the creative process. Ugly Creativity isn’t inherently good or bad, but is a phase of creativity that offers both challenge and reward. This phase of creativity is where true growth happens if you allow yourself to embrace it instead of pushing away or turning back.
Here is an example of Ugly Creativity: you’ve had an idea, planned it out, and got started. You’ve made some good progress but are realizing the project or undertaking is more than you originally planned. As an idea, this seemed great, but now that you’re actually in it, it’s more convoluted and demanding than imagined. This is a common example of Ugly Creativity. In this example, you’ve reached a crossroads — you can continue down the path knowing it will require hard work, you can turn around and follow a new path (a new idea), or you can call it quits altogether. The Ugly Creativity path is the path of most resistance because it may mean going right through the thick of it, paving the road as you go.
When your creativity gets ugly, you have to make a choice on how you meet it. You can get ugly with it and roll around in the dirt, or you can keep your hands clean. The question is — will your creative side let you choose one path or the other?