The Importance of Badspiration

The Importance of Badspiration

Next time you are feeling uninspired, I encourage you to try a technique I discovered in high school called “badspiration.” It is when, instead of looking for inspiration, you look at something bad, and then remind yourself, “At least I won’t do that.”

Badspiration comes at us from all kinds of places. Creative writing workshops. The unfortunate field of charity logos. Fox news. Teenage poetry forums. That one guy in yoga class with Jesus-shaped crotch sweat.

I don’t mean you should sit around and say that you’re better than everything around you. Instead, I’m saying there are problems with the idea of “inspiration” that make it need a counterpart. Looking for inspiration can help you get excited, but also leave you feeling generally intimidated. How can you create, out of thin air, something as great as whatever it is you want to copy and be just like?

Badspiration, on the other hand, presents you with a problem to solve. How can you avoid falling into the same traps as that bad thing? What is it about that bad thing that deters you, and how can you be sensitive of that same quality popping up in your own work? Creativity is not about immaculately conceiving something successful – it’s just as much about solving a pre-existing problem.

When you work to avoid being just like something else, instead of to be just like it, you’re avoiding being a copy cat, and finding white space where you can differentiate yourself.

So next time you feel stuck, don’t sit around and think, “I need to write just like Allen Ginsberg. How can I crack his style?” Instead, read the stupidest, most vapid magazine you can find, read some Live Journal essays about anorexia and true love, read that they still have fans and comments, and reassure yourself that it’s gonna be ok. Thank you, badspiration.

Becky Lang was badspired by how shitty the movie “Howl” was.