Personal perfection

I woke up before 6 a.m. this morning. Probably a good thing I did because I don’t think I properly set my alarms last night. So, I got up to edit audio and so my reading. I’m trying to read three pages of Wallace Wattles The Science of Getting Rich each day. I find it a much easier read than Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. I find that many of today’s self-improvement gurus stem from these early thought leaders and find them worth studying.

This has been a habit that I’ve been good with for a bit now. In the past, I’ve either had reading/studying or audio work, so it’s nice to have both together now. It’s a good way to start my day.

My day was broken with taking Merlin to the vet for a follow-up and vaccinations. He’s doing better. In fact, the vet said he was doing well for being 11 years old. I hope I can keep getting him out for exercise this winter so he doesn’t slow down. Neither one of us needs that.

I did get some writing done while I was making dinner tonight. I actually had something other than squash or eggplant. I made myself some rice to go with a little, round tenderloin. It was hard to not work on dishes while I was cooking because that’s what I’ve gotten into the habit of doing. But then I’m doing dishes twice; morning and afternoon dishes, then evening dishes. That’s probably not a productive use of time, as I’ve been telling myself. So, it was hard to focus on writing but I did.

I got 604 words done in-between stirring and flipping. Not bad for restarting. It’s priming the pump. Plus, it was only about 20-25 minutes, so I feel like that’s about par.

I didn’t get to painting tonight and I’m kind of bummed about that. I’m not quite sure what happened, other than my evening did start a bit late due to working in Merlin’s appointment. I’m trying not to worry too much about it. Again, I know I’m priming the pump and yet I didn’t need to be a plate spinner starting new plates too soon. It is what it feels like some days.

A few days ago, I came across Nany Reyner’s website. I’ve seen her painting books. I can’t remember what spurred me a couple days ago to look her up, but I did and I found she’s got this resource page of free videos. I started watching the Free your Creativity video, but had to stop. I came back to it today.

In the middle, as she’s giving ideas for overcoming creative block, she talks about perfectionism and mentions that sometimes we need personal perfectionism, but not perfectionism. I thought it was a wonderful way to phrase something I’ve been thinking about while watching Dean Wesley Smith’s videos. He speaks a lot about daring to be bad and doing the best with every story, that it’s all practice. His wife, Kris, has written a book about how perfectionism can be deadly to a writer. It had been very easy for me to accept all this as a writer.

Yet as an artist, I know I need to take this same attitude to painting and I haven’t been able to. And I don’t know why. If a story doesn’t work, I can either loop back and fix it, or I can walk away from it. Even with painting, if it’s not going the way I want, I have no issue painting over it. Maybe it is because I’m more willing to try to fix a story before abandoning it and a painting I will willingly paint over and do something else entirely that makes the difference. Maybe I just can’t “dare to be bad” as much with my painting.

Where does personal perfection come in?

Artists put a lot of themselves into their work. Their thoughts, their emotion, their dreams, their hearts. We want everyone to like it. Yet, all it takes is one person tilting his head while looking at your paintings and then asking, “What is that supposed to be? A flower or a bird?” to plant the seed capable of destroying the artist’s creative voice under the swelling shouts of the inner critic on every piece afterwards. It’s hard to step back and say, “Okay, that piece was practice. I learned. I’m better now. Next time, it will look like the tree branch I meant it to look like.” Then the artist goes and works on trees. Practice.

I know how hard this can be. I have one painting that I hate looking at because of a discreet conversation between a husband and wife which ended in him turning to me with a big grin on his face while he made a very rude comment about his wife and what she would do if my painting were real. Yeah, you don’t forget that kind of thing. My cheeks still flush when that comment pops in my head. I won’t be doing that sort of thing again in my painting.

And that’s only one comment I’ve heard about my paintings. There have been many.

Maybe it’s more immediate with painting because the viewer is there, versus a reader who takes the book and goes away. If they don’t like a book, they put it down, throw it against the wall, or give it away. Trolls may leave a bad review. But rarely will anyone ever say anything bad about a story directly to a writer. But art is literally out there for the viewing.

When Reyner spoke about personal perfection, I realized that was how I needed to start to phrase it to myself, both for my writing and my painting. I can’t let a piece be “perfect.” Not everyone will love it. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m good with that. But, it has be the best job I can do at a given moment. It is, after all, practice. It’s okay if I care about it. It should be the best that I can do. For me, it should be as perfect as I can make it. My perfect. Not anyone else’s.

I hope I’ve done a fair job of explaining this. It feels very ephemeral and I can’t quite get a grip on the quickly flowing thoughts myself. But, it’s the best I can do now.