Lane Anne


Perfectionism: A Place Where Creativity Goes To Die

Lane Geurkink

I have my nose in a few books, one being "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown. She has spent her life's work researching the behaviors and patterns behind shame and vulnerability. In part of her book, she talks about how perfectionism is a shield for vulnerability. She goes onto quote an artist, Nicholas Wilton, who has this to say about perfectionism in relation to art:

“I always felt that someone, a long time ago, organized the affairs of the world into areas that made sense – categories of stuff that is perfectible, things that fit neatly in perfect bundles. The world of business, for example, is this way – line items, spreadsheets , things that add up, that can be perfected. The legal system – not always perfect. but nonetheless a mind-numbing effort to actually write down all kinds of laws and instructions that cover all aspects of being human, a kind of umbrella code of conduct we should all follow.

Perfection is crucial in building an aircraft, a bridge, or a high-speed train. The code and mathematics residing just below the surface of the Internet is also this way. Things are either perfectly right or they will not work. So much of the world we work and live in is based upon being correct, being perfect.

But after this someone got through organizing everything just perfectly, he (or probably a she) was left with a bunch of stuff that didn’t fit anywhere – things in a shoe box that had to go somewhere. So in desperation this person threw up her arms and said “OK! Fine. All the rest of this stuff that isn’t perfectible, that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else, will just have to be piled into this last, rather large, tattered box that we can sort of push behind the couch. Maybe later we can come back and figure where it all is supposed to fit in. Let’s label the box ART.

The problem was thankfully never fixed, and in time 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.

Once the word Art enters the description of what you’re up to, it is almost like getting a hall pass from perfection. It thankfully releases us from any expectation of perfection. In relation to my own work not being perfect, I just always point to the tattered box behind the couch and mention the word Art, and people seem to understand and let you off the hook about being perfect and go back to their business.”

Although these thoughts don't fully tap into what I think about the idea of perfectionism, I do think on a surface level that it's encouraging. Praise God that He is perfect and I am fully free to be the mess that I am. And maybe out of that imperfection, Lord willing, I can create some perfectly imperfect art.