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.

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!