Embrace Your Creative Clutter

image credit:  here’s kate

As I walked into my loft after work, I couldn’t help but notice the ever-growing stack of books on my coffee table in disarray with sticky notes on pages of ideas I had while reading.

My “project songs” folder in my music studio has close to 1,000 projects started, but unfinished.  Some are near completed songs, others are just brief snippets of melodies.  I never stop myself from starting a new project when an idea strikes.

The drafts section in my blog has nearly 200 potential articles in it – some are brief thoughts, some are links to other blogger’s posts or articles I might like to respond to one day, some are near completed pieces.

When I used to play gigs in college as an artist, I would purposely keep my vinyl collection not organized by genre or artist, but in complete random fashion.  I knew every record like the back of my hand (and I have over 1,500 pieces of vinyl) – so I knew what I was getting when I made choices before a gig.  But the fact that it was randomly organized ensured an eclectic selection of music for the event I was playing, and guaranteed listeners would get a unique experience.  The most interesting mixes are always those that were unplanned.

I love creative clutter, creative chaos, whatever you like to call works-in-progress.  Creative clutter is satisfying to make, useful to have, and fun to dig through.  The more raw bits I can get out of my mind and into something concrete the better.  Even if I never return to it, I find the act itself intrinsically cathartic.

Be unafraid of making creative clutter.  Some of those snippets off the cusp of your brain can actually produce the most satisfying and successful results when you do take the time to draw them out into complete thoughts later.

The real world creative clutter gets to be chaotic – but with the digital variety you’re free of space constraints.  Storage is dirt cheap, folders are searchable/sortable, and you can manage the digital creative clutter to where it may seem chaotic to someone on the outside, but to you everything is in its place.

Some of the music I’ve created will only be heard by me, and never another living soul.  Same with words I have written.  Some of it might get merged with another project.  Some of it I might never listen to again.  Some of it I’ll send off to a close friend to let them see my raw, unfinished thoughts.  Some of it I’ll decide I don’t like, and delete.  I’ve even posted the unmixed parts of unfinished music to communities of music producers and let others run with it.

I know I’m not the only one with countless unfinished bits – I’ve been in friend’s music studios and seen what colleage’s wordpress dashboards look like.  It is simply a natural byproduct of our lifelong creative journey as artists, writers, marketers, bloggers – whatever it is we are putting our souls into.

Two samples of what I’ve done with excess creative clutter:

For blogging – creative clutter can be turned into guest posts.  I did that recently with a post I started writing here on Facebook, that had been sitting unfinished for quite awhile.  I decided to offer it to Louis Gray to hear what the early adopter/Silicon Valley crowd thought, which gave me new found motivation to finish it.  Check it out here.  If you’re a blogger and can’t seem to finish something for your own blog, writing it as a guest post could give you that extra motivation necessary to get it done.  Guest posting is exciting because you’re reaching a brand new audience, many of whom may never have interacted with your thoughts.

For music – my first artist album is a product of creative clutter.  It was as simple as picking 10 or so unfinished tracks, mixing them together as one long progression, and finishing the entire thing with one go, filling in bits that were missing all at once.  It came out different than my later albums – definitely less organized or cohesive, but in a satisfying kind of way.  If you’re an artist, throw all those unfinished bits together, you’ll be surprised with what you can make out of the many smaller pieces when you mix everything up.

What do you do with your creative clutter?

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