Making Your Way To 100. Practice Wins Over PerfectionFeb 02, 2021
Why is this even a thing?!?
Even as a professional artist, I have always had the desire to teach and help others be creative and make things that go beyond their own perceived limitations. While in college for Textile Design at Moore College of Art and Design, I presented my senior thesis with a similar theme. My presentation was on the topic of Overcoming Artist's Block. It was about how to generate ideas and inspiration from seemingly nothing. I reflect on that presentation now as I am still trying to help all people, not just established artists overcome whatever is preventing them from sharing their creative gifts with the world (Forget the world. Let's work on making it just for ourselves first and the world can follow.) I believe that we all have something very valuable to offer and it's much needed for our progress and health as a civilization (Here I go again with those big, lofty goals. Start small. We see you.).
What is at the root of a creative STALL OUT? Simply put, PERFECTIONISM. I'm here to say it: Perfectionism is silly! Perfection is really not possible and is a complete waste of time. Our attention, energy and efforts would be far better be used if we worked on playful, experimental, charitable, collaborative, long-term and even doomed to fail projects. Just imagine what can be made if we created WITHOUT an end in sight and six simple steps to get there.
The need (yes, need) for preventing the overwhelming and illusive desire for perfectionism starts within us during our childhood. It's not to be blamed on any one person or environment, but I would say it's a condition that is permitted to thrive within our current culture. As I provide art instruction to several adults, I find it the most difficult to watch a capable person give up on creating simply because it's not looking the way they pictured or even worse, it was difficult or challenging to create. Looking bad? Challenging? Yes, that's the point of making art. We are not made to be factories pushing out products. We are artists, innovators, and creatives of every kind who need to experience the ugly process in order to make genius happen.
Day Zero. Time to make art and not excuses.
What's the big rush about anyway? Is this a life or a race?
Austin Kleon was commenting during an interview with Chase Jarvis, "Small things will make big things. One drop at a time will eventually fill the whole bucket." Yes they do and the argument for this prolonged process is that it takes too much valuable time to make anything measurable happen. I love what Austin also had to say in his book, Keep Going when he was pointing out the value of our seasons and if we rush, we may miss the best parts. He remarked that he had no interest in "how the thirty-year-old became rich and famous; I want hear how an eighty-year-old spent her life in obscurity, kept making art, and lived a happy life." He continued on how he would like to 'ignore every "35 under 35" list published. I'm now interested in the annuals. I'm interested in perennials. I only want to ready the "8 over 80" lists.' This is an encouragement to me and counter to what is popular thinking today.
Another favorite and personally convicting statement I've remembered from reading Deep Work by Cal Newport, is about how if we continue to work at our current pace, we are only capable of creating work that is FRANTICALLY SHALLOW. Did that sting a little? It did for me. I want to have work that is of great value and even capable of sustaining value. I know, big ask, but not impossible. Perfection is what's impossible.
What are we doing to do about it?
Read the story below first and then buckle up. We are going on an adventure TOGETHER!
“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”
― Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
If you've made it this far in the reading, you're amazing! Here's a fun thing I think you'll appreciate being invited to participate in with others like yourself. I've created a way for you to prevent that ugly perfectionism block from stopping your creative practice. I'm casually naming this particular project, Making Your Way to 100 or 100 Cups for short.
If you're interested in learning more about this fun project, my discoveries, tips and practice, sign up to join a free webinar on preventing perfectionism where you can take part in the self-paced group art experience; meet virtually with our community to share progress and get your questions answered in real time. I've developed downloadable worksheets and reference material to keep you informed and energized. The investment in this journey is worth the outcome. I promise you.
Register for the webinar, Preventing Perfectionism.