True Artists Aren’t Afraid to Kill Their Babies

Note: Just to get one thing straight from the start, I’m not talking about real human babies. I’m talking about your creative works. True artists are willing to kill their own creative works.

I’ve been a creative person all my life. Ever since I was a kid I’ve written songs, plays, poems, stories, and more. I love to create things. But today’s lesson took me years to learn.

I used to keep everything I created. In my early years as a songwriter, I’d keep every song I wrote. Honestly, some of them were pieces of crap and I should never have finished them in the first place. Heck, I even kept crappy half-written songs.

I was learning my art. I still have a couple of old three-ring binders filled with mediocre songs. But I’ve trashed boxes of spiral-bound notebooks filled with songs that were complete bombs. True artists are willing to kill their babies.

It’s All Practice

Creativity is never about perfection. It is always about continually improving our art. Recently, at The Creativity Workshop, this lesson was reinforced. At the end of the workshop, we were told to take some of our work and cut it up, crumple it, and use it for another project. Many of the students hesitated, or they made copies of their original work. I just started ripping and crumpling. I know that creativity has a never-ending source, and that in the end, it’s all practice.

Some of Your Art Really Sucks

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have created pure crap. We all have. Whether you paint, write songs, or write novels, art has a learning curve. I’ve written hundreds of songs. About 75% of them are mediocre to garbage. Before I wrote my first book, A Train Called Forgiveness, I had another version of the same story. I was about 35,000 words into the story when I realized it was as boring as a statistics class. I threw the whole manuscript away.

Letting Go Creates New Creative Space

If you’ve followed my work, you also know that I blog about minimalism at As a creative minimalist I understand the power of starting with a clean slate. When we throw out old works, we make space for new works.

True artists know this: We are often emotionally attached to junk. That’s right. Sometimes our emotions trick us into thinking we just created something great, when in fact, it’s not. When we can step back and be honest and critical with ourselves, we begin to learn to let the lower-quality work go. That helps us to unattach emotionally. Unattaching gives us freedom to create new works.

Sometimes It’s the Circumstances

Right now, as I write this, I’m preparing to delete about 50 musical tracks on GarageBand. Why? Because I’m going to reset and sell my iPad Mini and upgrade to an iPad Pro. I could save all of the tracks, but it’s not worth my time. Are some of the tracks good? Yes. But the process of saving them from one iPad to the other is long and complicated. And I know I will create better tracks in the future. It’s all practice.

I did the same thing with this very blog. A couple of years ago, several dozens of files were infected on I was able to solve the problem and keep the blog. But in the process of it all, I realized that the blog had so many dead links and bad connections that I decided it would be easier to just start over. I deleted hundreds of posts, poems, and songs. True artists are willing to kill their babies.

Are You One of The True Artists?

Do you kill your babies? Have you learned that letting go of your own creative work is part of the process of creativity? If you have, congratulations! If you haven’t, don’t fret. It takes time. But you can start right now.

Here’s an exercise. Get out a blank sheet of paper or start a fresh computer file. Now draw something or write a poem. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, just have fun with it. You know what’s coming next. When you’re done, even if you think it’s good, rip up the paper or delete the file.

It hurt a little didn’t it? It always will. But it will also always open up more creative energy. And each time you kill one of your babies, it gets easier.

Okay, here it goes. I’m going to reset my iPad Mini back to factory settings for the sale. Ouch!

It is done.

I might have just killed 50 babies, but I’ve also created a blank slate for future creativity.