In the Direction of Perfection

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” Michelangelo

Chris Williamson of the Modern Wisdom podcast recently interviewed Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet. Her new book Bittersweet is one I’m looking forward to reading. In it, she discusses one of my favorite emotions, the emotion of bittersweet or melancholy, the feeling of pleasure accompanied by suffering or regret.

in the podcast, Susan puts forward the idea that creativity is “tapping into a state of imperfection and doing everything you can to transform it in the direction of perfection.” I love this idea and as a perfectionist myself, this helps me reframe perfectionism. If we can be okay with imperfection, and if we have a need for perfection, we can use it to our advantage creatively.

Moving between imperfection and perfection is easier said than done. Perfectionism can be debilitating. I often quit something out of fear of getting it wrong. The pull of the perfect can stop you in your tracks if you aren’t careful. But if you can sit for a little while in the imperfect, that’s where the real meat of the problem is.

I find that when I am frustrated with a problem I am trying to solve, that is most often the moment right before a breakthrough. So, I can either quit in the frustration, or push through to solve the problem. It’s weird how that happens, but I’ve noticed it over and over. Just when you think you can’t get more frustrated with something, that’s when the solution comes.

Sitting in the imperfect might feel uncomfortable, but great art doesn’t come from comfort. It comes from getting messy, breaking the rules, and pushing your ideas in the direction of perfection.

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