Why Every Artist Needs a Fuck You Project

I’ve been in a bad mood all week.  No, not just a bad mood, a foul mood.  I’m sure you know the one.  No gumption, no motivation—it’s the equivalent of a psychological head cold.  

And it doesn’t even make sense!  I’ve been working on a project that I’m really excited about: I’m booking my first East Coast modeling tour. (By the way: send me a message if you’re in New York or Baltimore and want to shoot!) Granted, I’ve been writing a lot of emails.  But that doesn’t seem like enough to justify my doldrums.  

I tried all the basic solutions: sleep, exercise, tryptophan, meditation, time off, socializing…none of them worked.  

And then I realized that I had forgotten something very important in the pursuit of my goals.  Something that, without it, I was almost guaranteed to be in a constant bad mood.  

I had forgotten to work on my Fuck You Project.

You probably already know what a Fuck You Project is.  Chances are, you probably already even have one.  It’s the concept that you find yourself fiddling with when you really ought to be working on what’s due.  It’s that project you do, just for yourself, because it’s cool and interesting and fun, or maybe just unbearably nerdy.  The only difference is, I think you should actively embrace these projects instead of trying to bury them under “real” work.

For me, previous Fuck You Projects have included a novella that will never see the light of day, solo piano pieces I’ve composed (those I actually shared), a really bad book of poetry about horses, and a long drawn-out fan fiction that I will deny exists if you ever ask me about it.

A Fuck You Project rarely pans out, as the above list should suggest.  Occasionally they’re worth sharing.  Occasionally.  Usually, they get abandoned.  They suck.  But they're still important for a couple of reasons.

When you’re an artist, self-expression is a part of your job.  Frankly, it’s what you’re hired to do.  But you’re also always self-editing for how people respond to your work.  You constantly ask yourself questions like: “What kind of image does the photographer want to create?”  “How will my readers react to this paragraph?”  “What dynamics will sound better to the listener?” 

Don’t get me wrong: these questions are very important.  They’re how you make good art. 

But self-editing can be draining.  It can stifle creativity and cause burnout.  When you feel like everything you make has to be good-or-else, that expectation can cause an unbelievable amount of stress. 

Not all art has to be good.

A Fuck You project is the opposite of all that.  A Fuck You Project is fundamentally for you. It’s the equivalent of a concert pianist noodling around on the keyboard—or just smashing the keys with their fists if that’s what they feel like. A Fuck You project is a big glowing neon sign that says, “Not all art has to be good.”  You can make stuff just because it’s fun, or cool, or interesting, or nerdy.  

After all, it’s called a Fuck You project for a reason.  Fuck what other people think; it’s not for them.  Fuck the feedback, fuck what you ought to do.  Let your brain play with new ideas; get creative again; vent.  The “important” work will be there when you get back.  But if you don’t balance your work-art with some art-for-art’s-sake-art, you just might crash and burn out.  You’ll certainly end up grumpy like me.

So, I’m going to start up a new Fuck You project as soon as I finish this blog post.  I’m hopeful it’ll be something good enough to share.  But if not, who cares?  That’s not the point.  And for anyone who thinks it’s a waste of time—including myself—and that I should be working on a “real project” instead?  I can direct them straight to the name.