Perfection Is Overrated

Especially in DIY.

As I approach 40 I’m either becoming (even more) cynical or just plain realizing how fixated we become on certain ideals. Don’t get me wrong, ideals are fabulous, but life is seldom ideal and we have got to stop exhausting ourselves trying to attain implausible goals. Life’s too short, way too short, to worry about perfection, and a host of other things which, well, would be a digression and I’m trying to stay on topic, here.

In other words: Perfect is the enemy of good.

What does that have to do with The Crafty Branch’s mission to inspire creativity and so forth? Lots!

Growing up I was a passable artist. I could draw and paint and was definitely creative. Every aptitude test they could think of, in middle and high school, was shoved in front of our gifted class and I always scored highest in the art and creativity realms.

But I wasn’t The Artist of our class. Several students were miles ahead of me in that respect, actually took art classes (I opted for band as my elective in 6th grade, and enjoyed it), and identified as Artists. And since I couldn’t be the best at it, or at least better than them, I didn’t pursue it.

I still dabbled (it’s not like I repressed that part of me; that’s actually pretty laughable considering how much a part of me that part truly is), and even sent away for catalogs from art schools during the college hunt. But it wasn’t practical. It wouldn’t pay the bills. And I had never cultivated any sort of self-confidence in my creative talents.

I let perfect get in the way of my goals, talents, and skills I prevented myself from learning for a long time.

But perfect is arbitrary in most cases, supremely subjective, and if it doesn’t stop us from trying outright, it keeps us spinning our wheels trying to improve upon what we’ve already done. Perfectionism surpasses “attention to detail” and becomes a detriment and stumbling block.

That thing I did as a kid, deciding that since I couldn’t be the best, couldn’t be perfect, I just wouldn’t do it? Yeah, I’m not alone.

A lot of people–I’d even say most adults of my generation and definitely the ones that came before it–did something similar. We lost our sense of exploration and wonder at the creative process. We decided (or were told, outright or by society) that it was for kids and maybe the chosen few who were anointed (by deity or demon, depending who’s telling the story) with that elusive creative spark. We started to say “I can’t” and “oh, I’m not good at that sort of thing” and “oh, I’m not creative.” (I cannot tell you how many of my students, back when I taught Cake Decorating, said those exact things to me at the beginning of each session. 90% at least!)

To which I politely and emphatically reply:


We’re creative creatures.* We have the innate ability to dream and try and plan and strive AND, unlike our pint-size past selves, we have the experience and resources at hand to do something about it.

I tell ya, youth is wasted on the young. Everyone is such a hurry to grow up and Be Somebody. But, hey, that’s why the phrase second childhood exists, and the toys are so much cooler now.

Which is one of the reasons behind the Creative Mischief Kits. I want more people to recapture that innate, childlike creativity, but with tools fit for the grownups we are. I want so much for people to open the box, get excited about the potential the things inside represent, and let down their hair for a little bit. It’s not about being perfect or reaching a level of mastery in a few minutes. It’s also not about faking or hacking your way through life. It’s about fulfilling that innate need we have to create.  It’s about trying, learning, and growing.

In Latin class, one of my favorite thing (all four years), was derivatives. I may have struggled with Latin grammar, but I loved seeing how a single Latin word spun out into different words we use everyday, and how they’re related. In this case, creative and creature both come from the Latin word creare, a form of creo which means “to make grow.”

In a bouquet of roses, not every bud will be perfect. Some will have crinkled petals. A leaf might droop. A thorn might prick you. But an imperfect rose is still a rose. And an imperfect rose still smells amazing.

Even an imperfect rose is still a rose. Don't let perfection stop you from being you.

Sometimes the Best Reaction to Loss is Inspiration

Like a lot of people, I woke up yesterday to the news that the world had lost a creative, talented, innovator.

David Bowie (1947-2016) died two days after his 69th birthday. On his last birthday he released a new album, even though he’d been battling cancer for the last 18 months. That right there is dedication to one’s craft. And, just like the rest of his career, this last album was a new path he forged, working with a jazz combo.

Tributes to Bowie’s life and work were all over yesterday. Space Oddity, Under Pressure, and anything from Labyrinth topped my friends’ mentions of him on Facebook, while I’m still partial to Peace on Earth (the counterpoint he wrote for the performance of Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby).

Regardless of our individual favorites, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Bowie would be proud if he were to influence any of us to keep working, keep innovating, and to keep trying new things.

In a bit of synchronicity, last week I finished reading Van Gogh: A Power Seething by Julian Bell. Unlike Boiwe, van Gogh didn’t set out to be an artist (he actually didn’t set out to be much of anything, at first, then he made several attempts to the clergy before finally trying out drawing). Of course, we know him as an artistic wonder, but that was only the last little bit of his life. In one of his letters to his brother, Theo, he wrote this about his emerging painting style.

Art as Shorthand

He wrote that at age 29 [which doesn’t seem like that late to find a career, to us, but keep in mind he died 8 years later, at 37, and the average life expectancy of men in the Netherlands when he was born was only 36.4(1)]. I found that particular line just so inspirational I did a post about it on my personal blog where it sparked creative prompts involving all five senses; you may be interested in reading it. (The Senses Project | Inspired by… Van Gogh).

I sign newsletters and design team posts with “wishing you creative days,” and it’s something I really mean. I hope you find a way to be creative each and every day, and that you never give up looking for opportunities to innovate and create.

(1) An Economic and Social History of the Netherlands, 1800-1920, Michael Wintle

A Little Creativity Each Day

Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so!

Are you looking forward to 2016?

I know we’ve got a couple more days until the ball drops and we all try to remember to write 2016 instead of 2015 (at least 5s turn into 6s very easily!), in my head I’ve already flipped the calendar and started planning for January, February, and beyond.

On my personal blog I use the tagline, “Better living through creativity… and cocktails” and I really believe it. Every day that we can do something creative is a better day than it would have been, otherwise. Now this doesn’t mean composing sonnets or your lunch break or painting a masterpiece after dinner. At least not every day 😉 But little things like doodling in the margins of your notebook or even organizing your space can be considered creativity at work (creative problem solving is creativity at its finest).

Of course, there are those days, you know the ones, when you don’t have time to create more than some CO2 as you breathe a sign of relief that the day is finally over. Still creating, you just have to look at it the right way.

I’m big on making to-do lists, and including creative bits in the to-dos along with the work and home stuff that also needs to get done. But what if you don’t know where to start or you’re in a bit of a rut? I’ve got a suggestion for that!

Several years ago I first encountered The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s all about ways to recognize and work through creative blocks and when in doubt, I turn to her techniques. There are 12 chapters and the original idea was that you’d work through a chapter a week for a 3 month pick-me-up, but I know plenty of people who take a month per chapter and make it a whole year’s activity. There are different actions to take (aka homework) with each chapter, and some of my friends have found it nice to have the extra time to work through the exercises at their own pace.

Regardless of the schedule you choose, as I started to work through the book I found that I was just super open to creative possibilities and the ideas started coming fast and furious. That was also the same year I started to keep a notebook close by at all times so I wouldn’t get bogged down trying to remember each of them. Something I still do, and my stack of notebooks is a treasure trove of ideas just waiting for the right moment.

So if you want to add “Be more creative” to your 2016 goals but are unsure of where to start, check out The Artist’s Way.

Have a safe and happy new year!

Well That Was Unexpected!

Yesterday afternoon, as I was trying to get back in the swing of not being on the cruise ship anymore (my inner ears have yet to get the message…makes for interesting times) my phone rang and it was Paul, my contact at the Big Distributor, the one that was so helpful getting the Pebbles papers to me in time for our last launch, and he was just checking in, making sure things were going well, and wanted to chat about some art journaling trends that they’ve noticed.

So, first, my question to you is: Do you art journal or do you even know what that is? (If not, watch this space come January because there’ll be more on that to come.)

Art journaling is pretty big in the art world right now, and has been for a while, with people using everything from sketchbooks, to old text books to journal in. It’s fun, messy, and super-expressive. I think it’s pretty awesome (if you couldn’t already tell).

While I’ve often said that anything can become a canvas, there are some things that I’ve refrained from altering or upcycling for various reasons. Top of the list? The books of various religions. Empirically I know that these are mass-produced words on paper, just like any other book. But I also know and respect that others see them as far more than the sum of their parts, so while I’ve contemplated turning them into creative canvases in the past, I’ve always shelved the idea in favor of less controversial foundation materials.

See what I did there?

But apparently, not everyone shares my reticence, because Paul tells me they’ve had to start stocking The Bible because bible-as-art-journal has recently exploded!

So my next question is: would you alter a religious book, be it the Christian Bible, the Koran, Torah, Book of Mormon or other works of note? And if you did, would you show it to anyone? Would you show me, because I’d love to see it!

I’m still not sure I would alter a Bible when I have so many other options before me, but it’ll be interesting to see where this trend leads. And anything that gets people tapping into their creativity is something I’m definitely in favor of, so there’s that!

Accessing that creative spirit is what the Creative Mischief Kits are all about, after all. If you’re still exploring you options for this year’s holiday cards, check out a recent post on my blog on just that topic and, of course, there’s still time to get your order in for our CPR Holiday Card Kits.


Here are 2o cards made with the Classic Christmas kit and the first cutting diagrams.


And here are 20 cards made from the Winter Whimsy kit and the second cutting diagrams.