Posts in Perfectionism
Perfection to Profection

Still geeking out on reflections of perfectionism in action. There was something bothering me after I wrote and published "Marvelous Human Mess". The gist of the article was encouragement to use the messes of our creation for more creation. To roll around in the mud and let the word 'mess' be something of a fossil of a past concept.

However, I think what was missing in that article was something that a reader brought to my attention later. Also something that a Joseph Campbell passage also touches upon. What about when you are striving to make something incredible? Isn't that what distinguishes the artist? Campbell believes so. And there is a good and proud feeling — a soapy, clean feeling after going all the way with a work you really care about it. I'm still feeling this from my most recent book. It's a great feeling.

Soooo ... perhaps it's the human imperfections I'm drawn to (the Marvelous Human Mess) ... while the object the artist crafts - (all heart circuits engaged) is where the stingy edges of perfectionism turn to gold. Or in the words of Steven Pressfield, when we turn Pro. There is still a dissolving of self/ego in both. Deep into a work I find that I no longer matter, it becomes something else. And once the work is released to the world it's no longer my business. It becomes completed by the stories in the people who engage with it.

Perfectionism perhaps ... has a good and strong instrument in the beginning stages to motivate the passion into the work. But after awhile the creation asks us to sacrifice and allow the work to become what it wants to become. When we listen deeply the relationship to the work turns to PRO-fection - to the public domain.

Therefore, I wish you all a healthy dose of human imperfection. Yet, a strong measure of perfectionistic energy toward your creations and the courage to sacrifice that when the listening takes you beyond perfection to PRO-fection.

Happy Monday!

PS: I will be in SF this Wed. eve as the Featured author event, chatting it up and reading from The Art of Daily Cultivation. If you are in the area, here are the details ... come on by!


Marvelous Human Mess

  When you make a mistake do you feel challenged to learn and adjust for the next time around, or do you admonish yourself and see it as a character defect? Or something in between?

I used to have a studio in a shipyard in the Bay Area. A variety of characters would pop in to see paintings in progress. Before they could say a word, within 30 seconds I had shown them all of the flaws in the painting. Luckily, the folks in the shipyard were artists and entrepreneurs. Their opinions of my work often took me by surprise. For many of them mistakes communicated entries into the imagination far faster than any conception or direction I may have had in mind.

One night I painted me dumping my head out of all its garbage into a recycle truck. My studio/office mate chuckled and asked if it worked. I told him that I believed that once I had nailed my character defects I would be a real painter. He said, "This isn't Miss America. Your character defects are what draw me into your paintings."

The nature of perfectionism assumes a law of order that is attainable if only we strive hard enough and become aware of anything that sullies it —  The battle of the lint of our imperfections can be intense.

I read a report card from my second grade teacher that she was concerned I would never be satisfied with an A+ — that I sought a grade higher not yet invented.

Creative practice during messy times has pummeled the perfectionist in me. When time is low and guilt is high and hungry deadlines persist, I've had to use the uglies in the work and make whatever is, oh, how to say this without cringing ... "good enough" ... yikes those words my toes curl.

By practicing imperfection I've grown fascinated by the human mess and standards by which the mess makes itself known. In particular the standard of perfectionism. Sheesh, where did that come from? The imperfections are so much more exciting. They give us more to discover and a wider array of materials to work with -- true adventure. Character defects make colors I have never seen. And isn't that true art? The expression of the tangled hairball of humanity is a painting I would buy over one that demonstrates perfect color theory.

Be proud of the marvelous human mess and make art of it.