I just read a fabulous book called Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Through a decade of research, Dr. Brown shows that being vulnerable is not a weakness, but our greatest strength in helping us find purpose and meaning in our lives. By saying that “I am enough,” instead of trying to be perfect, we can transform the way we live, love, and connect with others.
I have been trying to apply this principle of “I am enough” to my life, especially writing. This summer, I didn’t write very much, except a few query letters and blog articles. I didn’t do what my mentor Don Graves, told me to do, which was to “write every day if only for a few minutes. You will want to keep the thinking going. Just touching it will make it so.”
Writing in the middle of the mess of life is what I needed to do, but somehow I was waiting for the right moment to write. See how my thoughts trail off to self-criticism of my failure to write? This is the mindset that’s dangerous and counterproductive to writing. I need to think that perfect writing is overrated.
Writing and Perfection Are a Potent Mix
As Dr. Brown says, art and perfectionism don’t go well together. Research shows that perfectionism crushes creativity. So one way to avoid perfectionism is to start creating! Nicholas Wilton, an artist friend of Dr. Brown’s, said that some things, like an aircraft, bridge, or train, require perfection or they will not work. Other things, though, that don’t fit anywhere and are imperfectible, could be piled into a large, tattered box labeled ART and pushed behind the couch to come back to and figure out later.
According to Nicholas, the “box overflowed as more and more art piled up. I think the dilemma exists because art, among all the other tidy categories, most closely resembles what it is like to be human. To be alive. It is our nature to be imperfect. To have uncategorized feelings and emotions. To make or do things that don’t sometimes necessarily make sense. Art is all just perfectly imperfect.”