I’m in an undisclosed location finally writing the book I’ve been threatening to write for years. So that’s good. But notice, I’m not writing that book right now. Because I’m procrastinating. Because I’m in a little slump. Because the last chapter I wrote wasn’t perfect. See where I’m going here?
As the only person in the universe who puts off creative projects because of my messed up relationship with that Bad Boy I’ll call perfectionism, I will shed light on how it’s been a pair of cement shoes dragging my potential down to the bottom of the Could-Have-Been River for years. I get brilliant ideas all the time. I can see the end result in my head and that makes me happy and raises my endorphin levels. I’m already on some stage, somewhere, accepting the award. (Oh, that’s just me? How embarrassing…)
But then there’s the process — the tedious brick and mortar process of constructing those ideas — of putting them together piece by piece. Following one thread of an idea down a rabbit hole, spending hours, sometimes days, only to realize it was a dead end and to start over. It’s painful and frustrating, and so much easier to turn on HGTV. Which I’ve done, many a time in the past. And that bathroom still isn’t finished yet. Ah, the cycle continues…
And then there comes the time when NOT doing something that comes from your heart is even more painful. How the minutes and hours stretch into days, weeks, and years. The projects that were so vibrant and juicy and alive in you at one time evaporate into dust and go with you to your grave. Forget the awards — how tragic that another potential piece of art that could have been a great benefit to all of us was never to be. That’s an irreplaceable loss.
In my acting studio we do an exercise called “I Need.” It identifies your Personal Objective — the thing you need to have or accomplish. That means something different to everyone, according to what your soul needs at that time. It also changes depending on where you are in your life. It could be love, children, repairing a relationship. This is a need that literally hits you in the gut — you’ll know it when you feel it.
When I did my “I Need” I recognized my urgent desire to create a work that I could leave behind. My Personal Objective became very clear to me. I could no longer put it off because to do that would be too painful — it would literally be killing my soul. So I started to write. And now I’ve almost completed the first draft of the first section in a month.
Is it perfect? Good Lord, no. It’s been quite the test for me to tolerate the process of writing so imperfectly. If only it could land on the page immaculately — never to be retouched! Ready to be published and adored! But it doesn’t work that way. The task is to just show up and write. Get it down, whatever it may be. Lay the foundation — bumps, air holes and all — and trust that all can be shaped and smoothed later.
Whatever your art may be — know that chasing after perfection is a fool’s errand. It holds you back from your genius and the gifts you could be bestowing upon us right now. Art is imperfect. Art is human. All you need to do is show up and participate. That’s good enough.
(By the way, with any luck my book will be available @2017. And in my head, I’m already accepting the award…)
Copyright 2016 Andi Matheny All rights reserved