With the COVID-19 lockdown fully in place for the past several weeks, I’ve been able to spend more time creating. Using our creative abilities is so important for our well being, and I had gotten so far away from that – too much work and not enough play!
Besides finding joy in creating, it occurred to me that I’ve also learned an important lesson in letting go of perfection.
Are you a perfectionist like me? A perfectionist is someone who feels the need to make things absolutely perfect before he/she can be satisfied. That doesn’t mean that he/she is by any means perfect him/herself, a common misconception. What it really is, is a catch-22 – nothing and nobody is perfect! A perfectionist gets caught in a vicious loop of trying to get things exactly right, and never, ever being satisfied with the results. This is simply because the things he/she is trying to perfect cannot possibly be perfected.
As any good perfectionist would, I couldn’t be satisfied until the thing I was creating – whether it be a cake I was baking, a painting I was working on, or even improving something about myself – was perfect. Now again, nothing is or can be absolutely perfect, so I was always very dissatisfied with my work.
One day I was meditating on this frustrating concept, and came to realize that I was really becoming my worst enemy. Who cares if something isn’t perfect? So what if the end result has a smudge, or a little burnt part, or a simple, small flaw? Isn’t that what makes it unique? Isn’t that what would make it likable? Isn’t that what would make it perfect?
Then I pondered on this thought even longer and I came to realize that the joy of creating something doesn’t come from the end product. No, the joy of creating something in actuality comes from the process of creating.
So let’s sit on that thought for a moment. Once you have a finished project, you certainly do feel satisfaction. But I had just realized that the actual joy was found during the process of creating it: Coming up with the idea, putting a plan together, gathering all the tools, then actually doing the work. And let’s not forget the over-arching concept of learning and improving upon a new skill.
Since having this epiphany, I’ve been super conscious about the creative process. While I’m working on a new painting, I consciously think about what each moment is all about. I enjoy the sketching. I enjoy the process of dipping my paintbrush into the paint and dabbing it onto the canvas. I love putting a thought I have about something into something tangible.
And once I’m done, I typically end up with something that I actually really like. I think having this insight has made me happier with the finished results from my multitude of creative projects. In fact, I even got over the imperfections enough to start hanging my paintings up on my walls!
I don’t claim to be a great artist – I never have – but now that I have a different perspective I certainly am not going to be apologetic about the paintings I create. Truly, I don’t really notice little flaws which probably are there. But who has time for that anyway?
What are you working on where you might benefit from relishing in the process of its creation?