Artistic Perfectionism

I’m an artistic perfectionist. I’d like to just be an artist. Artistic perfectionism leaks over the other areas of my life. I find myself miserable that I’m not working on something I “feel good about.” To give you an idea, this is the current state of my artistic affairs:

1. A romance novel that is supposed to be fun but I’m finding it impossible to get into writing. 

2. A blog that I update regularly with stories about life on the farm as well as creative pieces and general reflections on life. But this isn’t interesting enough and not enough people read it.

3. Usually a poem or two a day, at least started. They may be coming together for a collection. But I don’t know what I’m doing, and people won’t want to read poetry

4. A song I’m writing that I’ve decided is irritating, plus I can’t play guitar well. I am at least taking lessons soon and therefore not completely passive on this front. Oh, but recording music is too technical and difficult, so I’ll never be able to make an album. 

5. A journal I write in every few days, just about my feelings. I don’t do this often enough and I never write enough when I do. 

6. I have a pottery wheel and clay. But I forgot how to do it, and looking up lessons seems overwhelming. Plus the whole thing just seems overwhelming, especially setting up the ideal space.

7. I take photos daily, many of which are artistic in nature, and post them on Instagram. But this doesn’t count. 

8. I love drawing animals and plan to do a portrait series of our farm animals. But this is not speaking to me right at the moment, so I beat myself up that I’m not really even still a visual artist.

It’s easy to fall into artistic perfectionism. While this may seem desirable, it in fact stifles creativity. At the very least, perfectionist tendencies need to be saved until the final draft. Otherwise, why not just let it all out, and ride the momentum while it’s there?

Another trend I’m noticing is artistic pessimism. And like I said, this attitude seems to cloud over my entire life. I realized this today. While on a walk, I wasn’t even taking any of it in. It’s said that nature is healing, but not if you aren’t even seeing it, because you are so wrapped up in your frustrated thoughts. I was going over several of these projects, angry that I don’t feel like working on them. It’s no wonder why when I make it so negative for myself. And when I did realize I wanted to write poetry today, I felt frustrated anyway because where was it all leading? A poetry book? Who would buy it? How would I promote it? It just sounds like work, so I don’t even want to get started.

Another trend is the difficulty creating art for my own enjoyment. Appreciating the process, rather than thinking of it as a finished, consumable product. I’m completely wrapped up in if other people will like it, and it squashes my desire and enjoyment. Even when I am creating, which is most days, it is a waste of time because none of it may get used in a finished product. 

My goal in life is to create for my own sake, and maybe even learn to collaborate with others (I’m so bad at this with a few exceptions). Then, after I create what I love, by my standards, I want to share it with people because I want to share, not because I’m seeking something from them to make it all seem worthwhile.

This gets me thinking about all kinds of addictive behavior I engage in. I’m a strong believer that one can be addicted to most anything. Some things I’m addicted to now and have been in the past include drugs, alcohol, individuals, attention, sex…I could write another entry on all that. A tell-tale sign of addiction is perfectionist anticipation. “I will only be happy once ____.” It is also the desire to escape the present moment.

Why do I hate the present so much anyway? My gut reaction is, “It’s painfully boring.” But is that really it? I’m going to have to reflect more on it. I have a feeling it has to do with trauma and illusions of control. And just structures of the human mind. The kind that make meditating so difficult for most people.

Anyway, I want to work on this. Haikus have been a cool way of writing about what is in front of me. I will try other things as well.

Here’s the draft of a poem I wrote on the subject of artistic perfectionism while on that walk. 


Let’s start an art of presence: What’s right in front of me?

Grassy soaked puddles reflect bare trees,  interrupted as I slosh through in my black rain boots. Brown dead leaves on the ground, coyote tracks in the snow, and two deer in the distance I almost missed with my head down 

writing this. 

there is a path, a longer way, and I take it, to think more on the futility of art to make you feel better. It is an addiction that doesn’t feed unless it is the art of enjoying the show, joining in, documenting the present. The art of enhancement, at least for me.

So much time and effort to escape the moments of my life.

The grey still pond. The patchy snow. The red Chevy pick-up juxtaposed with the dull-hued grasses. The old farm machinery on the horizon.

Let me use my genuine voice. Let me see things as they are. Let me enjoy myself, creating.