I am NOT one of those people who reads books all the time. It’s not something I make time for in life. The only time I read is when I’m on a plane or when my toes are in the water and my ass is in the sand. When I went to Costa Rica I brought three books. I finished 2 and the lonely soul that I didn’t get to was forgotten about until it was time to go to the beach for Memorial Day Weekend. Now you’re probably thinking it was a stereotypical trashy romance novel, but the book was called “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and one of my favorite books, “Committed”). The tagline on the front cover states it’s about “Creative Living Beyond Fear.” It was exactly what I needed while I was working on the master bathroom makeover. I related to so many things that I highlighted, underlined, and dog-eared over half of the pages. I identified with a lot of the concepts she discussed about creativity and how I have struggled with this area most of my life.
I have two distinct memories that sum up my creativity, and lack thereof. First, I remember taking an art class in downtown New Bern one summer. I must have been in elementary school, 4th or 5th grade. One class we went out to Bear Plaza to sketch a scene of anything that we saw. I remember not being able to put anything down in my sketch book. I knew anything that I drew was not going to come out on paper like I saw it in my head. It was a frustrating situation. The second memory is from high school. I asked a teacher to fill out a character evaluation form for a scholarship. There were different categories with rankings of 1-5 that you were rated on. One of them was creativity. This teacher ranked me very high on all of the categories except creativity, which he ranked me as a 1 for that category. I couldn’t disagree with that evaluation, at the time. It was an accurate reflection of my skills. Creativity hasn’t always been my forte. But as Gilbert says in Big Magic (pg 89)
“If you’re alive you’re a creative person….The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong…”
If I were evaluated today on my ability to be creative I would definitely check the box for a “4,” at least. The road to get to this place, the things I have worked on in my life, are very similar to subjects discussed in the book, especially the topic of perfectionism.
I am a recovering perfectionist. The word “perfect” is a “four-letter word” in my world. Being a perfectionist isn’t what most people think it is. Perfectionism is a coping mechanism in life. It can be expressed in many forms for different people. For me it started with social anxiety in elementary school that I battled even through college. In addition to social anxiety, it sneaked its way into my academic performance. I am all about having high standards, but perfectionism didn’t allow for any flexibility in my actual results. I made a 100 on each of my tests in my first accounting class in college. From then on my perfectionism said “You should be able to make a 100 on every accounting test in every class.” And when that didn’t happen it was not pretty. I was angry and disappointed in myself for grades that were incredibly good, but in my eyes only perfect was good enough.
My perfectionism held me back in life. It prevented me (can’t draw anything in a sketch book) from trying so many things for fear that they wouldn’t go as planned. Over the past 5 years I have made great strides on my perfectionistic tendencies. I am an aspiring “Good Enoughist.” Occasionally, my perfectionism rears its ugly head, but I have come a long way. I wouldn’t be on this creative journey with this blog/projects/photography/etc without this progress.
Big Magic talks about how perfectionism impacts creativity. Gilbert says on pg 166:
“Perfectionism stops people from completing their work – yes, but even worse it often stops people from beginning their work. Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother in the first place.”
Case in point, I couldn’t even scribble anything on that sketch pad for art class, not even one stroke of the pencil. There are so many other things I have “not attempted” for fear of failure over the years because perfectionism has ruled my life. If I knew something would only reach 95% success it wasn’t worth it to me to work on. I know now this philosophy is no way to live a full life. This book really helped me understand why I’ve had difficulty and have difficulty sometimes with creative projects. I’ve done A LOT of research and reading on perfectionism over the years as I’ve tried to work on this area of my life, but tying the fear that perfectionism creates to lack of creativity is new to me. It makes a lot of sense and I can look back on so many moments, in my life, that are “perfect” examples of this.
This concept of perfectionism and fear of creativity also explains my DIY journey over the last several years. The desire to do DIY projects and create things has always been there. But, until the last several years I really struggled bringing these to fruition. In July of 2013 I decided that I needed to diligently work on my perfectionism. I’ve attempted countless projects that I never would have dreamed of starting before I began this journey. I can say that some of them were started with fear lingering in the background, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how each one has turned out.
My progress isn’t a perfect story though. There are new things I want to do with the blog, to expand, start an Etsy store, and much more. But my perfectionism is getting the best of me at the moment and I need to give it a swift kick in the pants……cause ain’t nobody got time for that.