Albert Einstein's Princeton desk (taken 1955 hours before his death).
Artist John Currin speaking about the process of painting said:
"... a big part of painting is getting used to things not looking good while you're working on them."
(The exact opposite of that hateful saying "a tidy desk is a sign of a tidy mind" or whatever it is. I prefer a messy desk is a sign of a genius.)
(Can it apply to other areas, I wonder? Like a tip of a kitchen is the sign of a fabulous chef? A mess of a garden is a sign of a brilliant horticulturist? OK. Enough. Stop it.)
Getting used to things not looking good while you're working on them. For me that's when your working on an early draft--say of a picture book--and if you are worrying about how it looks you will clamp down, cramp up and get small and stiff and boring.
You have to keep it playful and messy and far too long. And let it be that way. And be patient. Knowing that when it's time you'll know what belongs and what doesn't. The book will tell you. But if you force it, if you try and tidy it up before it's time, you might be tidying away the best bits. You might be killing it.
Like weeding when you don't know what's a weed or a flower--disastrous. It might be all lovely and clean and tidy and, in the end, just a garden of tidy weeds.
A picture book is like a seed. It grows but in its own time. You can't rush it. You just have to keep showing up each day. Watering it. Tilling the soil. Like a good gardener. And not for too long. For me that's not more than 2-3 hours for an early draft (after that I start unraveling everything I've done because that's the time the chopper and cutter and efficient weeder editor person takes over).
Getting used to things not looking good. That's also something about trust and faith. Following clues. Knowing you're not making it up so much as discovering it. And for that you must be open. There. And listening.
Getting used to things not looking good. Would that include yourself when you're in the middle of creating? Probably. Is that why some writers look a little bit disheveled?