Creative Spark 6: Perfectionism & Messes

“Perfectionism is the enemy of the creative act.” pg. 29

The above quote cannot be learned. It has to be infused into your bones. The single thing that prevents it from being infused, possibly forever, is someone (mother, father, grandmother, well meaning person) crying “how did you get so dirty?” These simple, seemingly innocuous words can doom someone to a lifetime of cleanliness and perfectionism. I know this because I have only made some strides into messiness. When I am in the midst of projects, my workroom is terribly messy. The boys are scared to walk across the room lest they step on something important. The YM gives me dirty looks and stern admonishments as he walks through the bathroom he uses.

The strides I have not made are into dyeing and painting. I do both very occasionally, but they are just too messy. My godmother had a lot of good qualities, but encouraging and supporting messiness was not one of them.

However, it is important to encourage creativity and one way is to validate process and exploration. “Life is filled with opportunities and if you are worried about getting dirty or making a mess…then you will be limited in your possibilities” (pg.29).

Life isn’t a show. people are messy. Perfectionism “constricts and confines you” (pg. 29). Your life and work “doesn’t have to be tidy. It doesn’t have to be tidy. It doesn’t have to look perfect. But it does have to be true to you” (pg.30). I have started to get rid of fabric that I bought because people said I needed to add ugly fabric to quilts to make them sing. This is not my authentic style: out they go. I look at fabric in a quilt store in the context of the fabric I have at home not in the context of the quilt store, so I can bring home fabric that works with the fabric I have. Most fabric looks fantastic in a quilt store; not all fabric looks good in my workroom. I want the fabric I buy to be authentic to what I am making, so I can include it in quilts that will end up being my style.

The other thing is that allowing the messy part out allows you to grow as a person. “Allowing the messy part of the self-the unresolved part- to have a voice is a way of healing and a way of understanding yourself and the world” (pg.30). Not all of your work will be perfect. There will be tears and raw edges and corners that don’t match. You won’t ever get to perfect without these things.

In this Spark, I am reminded of the 10,000 hours. Someone said you had to do 10,000 hours worth of work in your chosen field in order to master it. I don’t know if that is true, but if things aren’t going well for me in my work, I think about that and tell myself I have to put in the hours.

I was reminded on Saturday, at the CQFA meeting, how much I enjoy hearing about people’s process and how they got to the piece they are showing. It shows work and a process and trying things out that might have sort of worked or didn’t work. It shows tweaking and thinking.

Anne Lamott wrote (and Bloomston shared) “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of hte people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life…Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend” (pg.31).

Nota bene: we are still working through Carrie Bloomston’s book, The Little Spark. Buy it. There is a lot more to it than what I am writing and it will help you.

 

 

Author: JayeL

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

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