“Perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything…
It’s actually kind of tragic, because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.”
~ David Foster Wallace
Perfectionism is no friend of vibrant creativity. As a matter of fact, perfectionism will dilute and stall even the strongest of artistic practices. The creative soul’s magical superhero power is to envision something new. We create a painting, or a conversation or an experience. We breathe life into rooms. We take something old and make something new.
And sometimes the thing we create is not the thing we envisioned, so we judge it.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Brene Brown said this about perfectionism:
”What emerged for me in the data is that perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving. It’s… a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.'”
I remember sitting in a college drawing class discussing the importance of the correct kind of paper. After all, we were creating important works of art that needed to last beyond our lifetime. As we discussed the weight and the ph balance of the paper and the proper way to store and display, I picked up an ideal that became perfectionism. I stopped playing and practicing and became quite serious about always creating high level work with only the best supplies.
Those ideals about lofty end product and perfect working spaces almost choked my practice out. If I’m honest, I still wrestle with perfectionism on the regular, but I’ve learned a trick or two since my school days.
One of the things I do to step away from perfectionism is to create on highly acidic brown paper. I create small journals from brown paper bags and fill them with everything. Sketches, lists, collages. I call them my “Brown Paper Musings” and on these brown pages, I freely gather my artistic thoughts and speak my truth. I enjoy the process of creating rather than getting lost in idealistic end results.
By choosing simple, humble grocery bags as my substrate, I recognize from the beginning, the impermanence of the work. It “right-sizes” me and the work. It frees us both to be exactly what we are and where we are. It keeps my creative practice alive and moving. Sometimes I even find myself drawing on super expensive, 100% cotton paper.
I wish for you today, some brown paper and safe places to create.
BE in your life,