Perfectionism and Art
February 26, 2019
Dear Allyson,

You were in my dream last night emphatically telling me
"People aren't perfect and we can't make perfect art, and that's life!
All we can do is what we can do, but we can do a lot!”

I find that my habit of perfectionism and being overly critical of myself limits both the quality and quantity of my creative output.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on perfectionism and art.

Thank you and Alex for everything you do :)

-Hans
Ask Allyson Image
Realms of the Unpronounceable
Dear Hans,

Alex & I love this question! Alex recommends a book by Stephen Nachmanovitch entitled Free Play about going with the flow. The skill you bring to your creative time can evoke the sense of a perfect moment. If a skill is in development, allow that new knowledge and experience to support and not strangle the spirit of creativity -- "the flow of unhindered creative energy: the joy of making art in all its varied forms.” — Penguin Books

Your question reminded me of these three essential paragraphs by Krishnamurti, globally regarded as one of the greatest thinkers and religious teachers of all time. jkrishnamurti.org

Creativeness is not merely a matter of painting pictures or writing poems, which is good to do, but which is very little in itself. What is important is to be wholly discontented, for such total discontent is the beginning of the initiative which becomes creative as it matures; and that is the only way to find out what is truth, what is God, because the creative state is God.

So one must have this total discontent -- but with joy. Do you understand? One must be wholly discontented, not complainingly, but with joy, with gaiety, with love. Most people who are discontented are terrible bores; they are always complaining that something or other isn't right, or wishing they were in a better position, or wanting circumstances to be different, because their discontent is very superficial. And those who are not discontented at all are already dead.

If you can be in revolt when you are young, and as you grow older keep your discontent alive with with the vitality of joy and great affection, then the flame of discontent will have an extraordinary significance because it will build, it will create, it will bring new things into being. For this you must have the right kind of education, which is not the kind that merely prepares you to get a job or to climb the ladder of success, but the education that helps you to think and gives you space -- space not in the form of a larger bedroom or a higher roof, but space for your mind to grow so it is not bound by any belief, by any fear.

Perfectionism is an artist's best friend to love and nurture. We learn by embracing dissatisfaction and then evolve our creative life forward. Stopped by results that do not meet our high standards of ourselves while building skill and aesthetic ability is unrealistic and could be an excuse not to take the time and do the work to become masterful. Not being good enough now is no excuse for not being all you can be. If we identify as an artist, avoiding our soul could be a health factor.

How important is it to be an artist? Would you prefer pursuing music, dance, acting? If dissatisfaction is an immoveable obstacle in your art, consider whether someone in your life disapproved of your art or pushed you creatively, in a way that brought up feelings of defiance? Living at the effect of disagreeable judgements by others is unacceptable.

Love,

Allyson
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