As I mentioned already, for a long time I simply didn’t consider myself creative. While there’s no doubt that I’m pursuing creativity more often now—especially through doodling—I still find myself fighting the urge to qualify my art by explaining that I’m not really an artist.

As I’ve been thinking about my new approach to creativity and what it means to really pursue a craft and call myself creative, I’ve realized that I’ve probably always been creative but perfectionism led me to bury that part of myself.

Because here’s the thing: Making good art requires a whole lot of messiness in the process. Sure, there are probably a prodigies or savants who can pick up a pencil or paint brush or instrument and create something truly beautiful without any effort. But for the rest of us, it takes work. It takes experimenting and trying new things. It takes messing up and figuring out what doesn’t look or sound good and what the difference is between the things that resonate in your soul and those that don’t. It takes pushing the limits to try new things, discover your style, and stretch your skills.

For those of us who are perfectionists, art is a painful process. While I’ve been writing publicly for years, I write most of my words on the computer, which means I can easily backspace, delete and edit. I can clean things up and no one will ever see the earlier drafts. Drawing on paper is a different beast altogether. There’s a very real chance that someone will glance over my shoulder as I doodle and see a doodle that just can’t be cleaned up and made pretty. And even if they don’t see it in process, it’s in my notebook or book, as a permanent record of those “failures.” When I venture into hand-lettering, where it’s even harder to edit and add and change what’s already been drawn than it is with doodling, it gets even more painful.

I’m learning to accept that not every letter or doodle I attempt will be “portfolio” worthy. And that is okay. It’s like falling while you ski; it’s not fun, but it means you’re trying new things and pushing yourself. Which means it’s not just okay but actually a good thing.

No one wants to put their mistakes out there for others to see, and art is so intensely personal that it makes doing that even harder. But accepting the process is an important part of being able to really grow!

ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS

  1. Are you a perfectionist? Does the idea of making mistakes or creating something that’s not perfect stop you from creating?
  2. How would embracing imperfection change your view of your art or craft?
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