I’m convinced us creatives tend to be highly critical of our craft, and an obsession with “it’s got to be perfect” prevents us from taking artistic risks.
Although I wonder whether perfectionism is the enemy of every creative or just me, I highly suspect I’m not alone when it comes to wanting a perfect painting or piece of writing or decorated room or stunning outfit…
Learning to be ok with not good enough challenges me every time I pick up a paint brush or try to create, for that matter, anything.
My recent painting in process, “Awaiting Spring,” is one of the ways I’m processing life during this Covid-19 Stay at Home Order. I wanted the woman to embody deep concern during this dark, wintery time in human history and yet hope for a new dawn of spring, release, freedom from this plague. I also envisioned a garland of forest foliage and spring flowers as a symbol of coming freedom.
Unfortunately, negative thoughts antagonized good intentions: The rose isn’t quite right…the bird nest doesn’t look just like the reference photo…I can’t get the shading on that flower correct.
The mental dialogue went on and on, making me hesitant to post my process online.
Yet, I know from past experience that when I push through my fears and share my imperfect process, whether painting, floral designing, blog posting, or dough sculpting, people seem to draw strength to create. Others simply enjoy the warmth of soul that art releases. A Facebook friend’s comment in response to my post, The Parting: Marketing Art, aptly expressed this struggle with perfectionism.
Here’s an excerpt from the post and Debi’s response:
“I can’t say enough about the positive benefits I’ve discovered by pushing past my fears to bring my art into the marketplace. For me, it’s not about achieving perfection, growing in notoriety, or making lots of money. It’s about having the courage to say, “I am an artist, and I have creativity to share with the world!”
Debi Mcneil: “I love that! So many are so quick to criticize, yet they won’t even try! Since being on quarantine I’ve picked up my watercolors again. I’m terrible now but I won’t be for long! Thanks JoDee”
My response: “Debi, I so agree with your comment. I found my greatest fear was sharing my “in process art” because I’ve never had professional training. I was raised by an artistic mother who always encouraged us kids to create. When I start to feel afraid, I recite the 12-Step slogan, “Striving for progress not perfection.” I’m very excited that you’ve picked up your watercolors again. Please let me know when you start posting your art.”
My quest to learn to be “ok with not being good enough” led me to do a search on my blog to recount former struggles with perfectionism. The blog posts I found with this theme astounded me. Apparently, this struggle has been a part of my creative journey for a very long time. Here’s some posts and excerpts:
Perfectionism is a harsh taskmaster of our souls…
Perfectionism replays those child-like messages filled with shame, “If you don’t do what he/she says, you’re a failure. You’ll never write good enough, blog good enough, teach good enough…” This endless list of lack haunts my mind when I submit to the stocks of perfectionism…
I long to do what bubbles up inside of me, which is full of life and purpose. I dare to believe that God focuses on progress and smiles when I take this approach. I wonder what could occur if people pursued their innate desire for freedom. What if we stopped trying to please everyone else and started listening to those slight promptings that come into our minds and hearts? Would we live any differently?
I believe there are times when we develop creativity in the dark. By this I mean, we give ourselves permission to hide while we explore our identities….
When we create in the dark, we avoid the roving eyes of sharp-tongued critics. Our exploration has a chance to fail, to develop, and to grow…
Our goal is not to perform but to live. In living, we breathe in the air of freedom and opportunity so necessary for cultivating our talents and interests.
As a child, I dreaded disappointing my parents and teachers; basically, adults in general. This compulsion to be good often directed my choices rather than the desire for the creativity God embedded in my genetic code.
We artistic souls are not always ready or willing to have our creations analyzed let alone criticized. Yet somewhere between everyday artistic living and vying for public adoration exits a place for sharing; a chance to present what we made or what we appreciate to others of kindred spirit; perhaps not of our particular art form but those who can acknowledge the daring act of blogging in and of itself—the risk of “Stepping out!”
So, if you’re a creative out there who struggles with insecurities or has hit a roadblock of fear, I want to encourage you to “Strive for progress and not perfection,” as the 12-Step Slogan so aptly encourages.
Take it from me, had I not pushed past my compulsion to be perfect and embraced being ok with not being good enough, I wouldn’t have grown as an artist. For the process of creating is a gift from our Creator, providing bread for our famished souls!