Productive over Perfect
Fact: Perfectionism crushes creativity. An effective way to recover from perfectionism is to start creating. That might seem counter-intuitive, but it follows the same contrarian path towards recovery as other challenging situations. Heartbroken over the end of a relationship? Go volunteer, and give of yourself. That outward act of generosity can backfill your internal noodling of sad thoughts. The good light of giving that you’re shining on the world contradicts the dark weight of your heart’s woes. Car broken into, and something stolen? Buy yourself a cup of tea and a scone – or a similar “micro-pleasure” to contradict the loss. In the same vein, slay your perfectionism by making stuff. A LOT of stuff. Not just a sketch or a little watercolor once every six weeks, but make piles of stuff, as often as you can, over and over. Perfectionism doesn’t stand a chance against the herculean foe of Productivity.
Perfectionism has a Place, but it’s Not in the Art Studio
Nicholas Wilton is a painter and an art encourager. If you don’t know his work and writings, visit his blog and watch a couple of his videos for a dose of creative-courage. He wrote a beautiful essay for Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, and he describes the categories in life where perfectionism is appropriate, and even required, compared to the rankings where flawlessness doesn’t work at all.
Nick says: “I always felt that someone, a long time ago, organized the affairs of the world into areas that made sense – categories of stuff that is perfectible, things that fit neatly in perfect bundles. The world of business, for example, is this way – line items, spreadsheets, things that add up, that can be perfected. The legal system – not always perfect – but nonetheless a mind-numbing effort to actually write down all kinds of laws and instructions that cover all aspects of being human, a kind of umbrella code of conduct we should all follow.
Perfection is crucial in building an aircraft, a bridge, or a high-speed train. The code and mathematics residing just below the surface of the Internet is also this way. Things are either perfectly right or they will not work. So much of the world we work and live in is based upon being correct, being perfect.
But after this someone got through organizing everything just perfectly, he (or probably a she) was left with a bunch of stuff that didn’t fit anywhere – things in a shoe box that had to go somewhere. So, in desperation, this person threw up her arms and said, “OK! Fine. All the rest of this stuff that isn’t perfectible, that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else, will just have to be piled into this last, rather large, tattered box that we can sort of push behind the couch. Maybe later we can come back and figure where it all is supposed to fit in.” Let’s label the box ART.
The problem was, thankfully, never fixed, and in time the box overflowed as more and more art piled up. I think the dilemma exists because art, among all the other tidy categories, most closely resembles what it is like to be human. To be alive. It is our nature to be imperfect. To have uncategorized feelings and emotions. To make or do things that don’t sometimes necessarily make sense.
Art is all just perfectly imperfect.
Once the word Art enters the description of what you’re up to, it is almost like getting a hall pass from perfection. It thankfully releases us from any expectation of perfection. In relation to my own work not being perfect, I just always point to the tattered box behind the couch and mention the word Art, and people seem to understand and let you off the hook about being perfect and go back to their business.”
Thanks, Nick. That was a lovely excerpt on an important topic for so many artists!
Lock Perfect in the Cupboard
And then go make something with your art supplies. It’s important to have fun, so you’ll want to keep coming back to making things with your hands. If you strangle the creative experience with perfection, you might as well be folding the laundry with your hands, because it’s not fun anymore. How do you slay your perfection dragon? If you have tips and tricks for more fun in the art studio, please leave them in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!
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