Tuesday, September 04, 2007

At the end of our street two small, old houses sit side by side. The houses themselves are invisible, nondescript boxes built before the attached garage style became the norm. The type of home that houses two old people and then one old person and then .... one day there's a For Sale sign in the front yard. One house is sort of cluttered, the other is tidy in a barren sort of way. Between the two houses runs a ramshackle line of boards defiantly claiming to be a fence. When I drive by, that fence almost always makes me smile.

Why? I dunno. I think it's "cute" in a shabby chic kinda way. It's homogeneous despite its patchwork of materials, all aging grays and whites, that one cheerful stretch of faded blue. I cheer for it, like a character from The Brave Little Toaster - weathered, made up of bits and pieces leaning on each other for support but still valiantly attempting to be useful in its old age, not yet ready to be put pulled down and tossed on the scrap heap. I suspect that some would consider it nothing but an eyesore. Indeed, it would be illegal in some neighborhoods. But I don't care. I think it has character, personality, and a quirky loveliness to it.

Driving down the street the other day on the way to running some errand, again I noticed the fence as I slowed for the stop sign and suddenly it occurred to me that while here I was admiring this old, imperfect piece of "lawn art" I had spent the better part of the last month frozen in my progress to put my living room back together WHY? - because I was afraid it wouldn't be perfect. That somehow completing the project, putting the old and new back together and calling it finished would expose the imperfection of my efforts.

I realized I didn't want to finish the process because I was certain that what I created would never live up to the perfect image in my head. Not that I even know what that image would look like. It certainly isn't something exact and flawless from a glossy magazine picture. What I'd been trying to do was blend a hodge podge of designs together to create a unique statement of who I am. I had never had a end result pictured in my mind. Instead I'd been following my gut, getting the green light whenever the "energy" or "mood" felt right -one that is happy, peaceful and makes you feel like you've stepped across the threshold into another a place slightly out of pace with the world outside. At what point in the process did the insideous idea that I had a result in mind, and that it needed to be perfect, creep in and take over?

I don't even LIKE perfect things! They often feel cold and unfriendly too me. They make me nervous and uncomfortable. For example - The town of Cannon Beach is a seaside town just west of Portland, Oregon. It's beautiful and new and a haven for the upscale and beautiful people who come from the big city for the weekend or the day. I've met some nice and friendly people there but still, the town has always made me feel just a wee bit unwelcome, as if my dusty, bumper stickered Subie might mar the perfection of their color coordinated streets. I'm much more at ease in some of the other seaside villages that are more eclectic and rough around the edges.

I don't like houses that are so clean I'm afraid to walk across the floor or set a glass down. I don't like art that matches the sofa. I find interesting faces more beautiful than faces with perfect features. I like my gardens a bit overgrown and wild. I like paintings with odd color combinations, quilts that are scrappy, and tables set with a theme or color but with a collection of not quite matching dishes and silverware.

Now that I think about it, the fear of imperfection stops me from doing more than just putting my living room back together. It stops me from finishing my novel. It keeps me from trying new art techniques. I hate that steep uphill climb on the learning curve when you have to treat all your outcome as "learning experiences."

It's no surprise that I've been happiest with both the process and my outcome on those rare occasions when I've worked without any preconceived ideas of what I expect of the results. Most of the time in my art, and not quite as rigidly in my writing but still true, I don't allow myself this kind of freedom. I shackle myself to an idea in my head of what something should look or sound like. Of course the creative process has a life of it's own and it fights the mold I've set for it, sprouting off in one odd direction after another. Then I spend most of my time and energy trying to force my project back towards the original idea. It's exhausting and rarely gets me the desired results. When I go into a project instead with nothing but a direction and a few disposable ideas, following the unexpected twists and changes instead of fighting them, I'm much more likely to arrive at the creative end thinking "Of course! Brilliant!"

It's interesting that, when it comes to other experiences in life, I'm very good at allowing myself the freedom of trusting the unknown. When things go off in unexpected directions, which they almost always seem to do, I've long ago learned that they are most likely going in the right direction. I've learned to be patient, enjoy the scenery, knowing everything will be revealed around the next bend in the road. How can I have learned to have such faith in my intuition for life in general and yet still be such a nervous back seat driver whenever my muse tries to take the wheel?

Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'm finally "getting" it. Maybe I can hold onto and remember this small ephiphany from now on. Sad but true, people usually have to learn a lesson several times (sometimes far more than several times for us stubborn folk) before it sticks. Hopefully, this is one of those sticky ones. And, maybe I can finally get my living room back together now that I've identified one of my stumbling blocks.

Originally I was going to post this wee philosophical ramble over on Beach Treasure but this morning the whole thing suddenly made much more sense connected to the idea of creative process and it wanted to stay here at the studio. Conversely, the photos I had planned on sharing here found themselves a string of words that tied them down over there in my day to day musings. Clouds. Pretty. Go see them.

1 comment:

Miss*Laurence said...

What a riveting post. I know where you come from and where you are going with it so well! perfection is difficult to deal with because it makes you go forward and improve but at the same time, you find that it does not exist.
It does not mean that you should just do with the "well that will do" either.. i find that I try to make everything perfecty every time I start a new project, but then something goes a bit wrong, and the obsession disappears. There is a part of disappointment in me when that happens, but then I just carry on regardless, turn away a little and look at the work again as if it was all intended, and I find that I work better then, I can enjoy it better. (you know like a brand new piece of fabric or set of colours you dare not touch until you cut a little notch or mix your paints.. a release happens) I can add something even better I never thought of, which gives it originality, a finishing point. I hope you can find your finishing points too, it must be hard for a novel though.