Don’t Wait for Perfection

February 22 by

Don’t Wait for Perfection

My mother was always planning neat parties and get togethers.  She’d mine magazines for images that would be the perfect décor, recipe, or method to do something related to it.  She’d check out yard sales, holiday sales, and stores for the right accoutrements to use in the theme, so that the mood would be set, the look would be right, and everything would be perfect.  Unfortunately, my mother never had those awesome gatherings she planned.

She took up tole art painting.  She was incredibly talented.  She did beautiful work.  But, she could never see the beauty of it because, to her, it wasn’t perfect.  She did finally release some of her work into the world through gifts to family.  No one ever looked at her work and said, “oh wow, you have a tiny flaw right there in the leaf.  It should have been greener, or a better straight line, or in a different place.”

She had great intentions.  She wanted to have those parties.  But, she could never get them scheduled because she couldn’t get everything perfect all at the same time.

She wanted to paint woodwork and sell it.  But, she could never see that her work was good enough.

You’d never really know it to look at her house or at her life, but she was a perfectionist.  And some of that rubbed off on me, and I still struggle with it.

But I’m learning that things are never truly perfect.  Anyone who tells you they are, is lying, not only to you, but to themselves.  There is no such thing as perfection.

In my late twenties and early thirties, I became a professional cake decorator.  And I was a serious perfectionist about it in the beginning.  I’d fret horribly over the impression the cake would make if there was one small flaw in the smooth icing, if a icing leaf wasn’t pointed exactly as it should be.  Then I realized, I was the only one worried about that.  No one else cared.  Slowly, I began to let go of that worry, that fear, and I enjoyed what I was doing so much more!

I have friends whose homes don’t look like anyone ever does anything in them.  They are spotless, nothing out of place, it’s as though no one lives there, there’s never a meal cooked, there’s never a magazine flipped through.  They look like something out of a magazine.

Personally, I’m not good at that.  My home always has projects in various phases of completion.  There are sharpies in every room, there are magazines by the couch, and by the bed.  There’s almost always something dirty in the sink, a fork, a glass, something.  There’s almost always something I’ve just washed drying on a towel on the counter.  There’s olive oil and peanut brittle from Amish country on the counter.

I spent a lot of time worrying about that aspect of me.  That my home isn’t perfect.  That it doesn’t look like you’re walking into a magazine layout all the time.  Then I saw Julia Child’s kitchen at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  It’s organized chaos.  Things hanging on the walls, the counters covered in things she wanted at arm’s length, mixer, cutting boards, et. al.  And then when I looked at my kitchen, I thought, yeah, this is how I work best.  Things where I can get to them.  It’s not perfect.  But it works for me.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that creativity (well actually life in general) isn’t perfectionism.  If you wait until you get it just perfect, your work will forever be available only to your eyes.  If that’s what you want, then great.  But, if you really want to share your work, you have to let it go.  You have to realize that it will never be perfect enough to not be criticized, to not be controversial, not to be hated, to not be something that triggers something in someone else to the point that they are ugly or rude about it.

When we try to adhere to what other people of think of as perfect, or our own warped idea of it, we are holding back the best parts of ourselves.  The bits that are messy, that are funny, that are creative, that flow with natural beauty.  Next time you sit down to do something creative, let yourself be imperfect.  Allow yourself to view every mistake as a necessary thing that makes it that much more beautiful.  Even in writing.  Use that word that everyone says not to if it expresses exactly what you want to say or convey.

I wish my mother had allowed herself to have all those great thematic parties she planned.  I wish she’d trusted that no one would care if her house wasn’t perfect. I wish she’d allowed herself to do all the painting she wanted to, and sell it where ever she could find places to sell it.  I don’t want to wish the same for myself years from now when I’m at a stage of life where I can’t do what I want to do.

To that end, I’m writing blog pieces like this one.  I’ve published two hand drawn coloring books with images that aren’t computer generated perfection – but real and a little flawed here and there.  Conscious Coloring and Carnal Coloring.

So, I’m asking you, please, don’t wait for the things you do to be perfect.  And I’m here to beg you to allow yourself to be imperfect.  To beg you to let us see your work, your writing, your drawing, your creativity.  We will love it and we will hate it.  We will be envious of your brilliance, and we will be awestruck by the way you’ve captured what we’ve always felt.  And you, you will feel the exhilaration and the terror and the joy and the rapture of knowing something you love, something you’ve created is out there.  Imperfect.  Shining.  Finally.

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Cathy Lynn

About Cathy Lynn

Cathy Lynn is an artist, writer, executive trainer, and the co-owner of Inkwell Basics. She has published two coloring books, Conscious Coloring and Carnal Coloring. She's currently working on a novel, and turning her farm into an event venue. She previously blogged at 3 Shared Paths, a personal growth blog that was read worldwide, and has been blogging for over 10 years. She lives somewhere between the city and the country with her three cats, Sebastian, Miss Kitty, and Ella.

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