Here’s one thing I’m sure of in life: nothing is perfect. The problem, however, is that I only believe this to be true 95% of the time. Most artists are their own worst critics, and the unrealistic expectations we place upon ourselves are, well, unrealistic expectations.
Every time I sit down and start to design something, I’m left with the 5% hope that what I create will be flawless—which sets me up for failure.
I get inspired easily, and I’m an idea person. I spend a tremendous amount of my time in creative mode, and while I love what I do, there’s a downside.
One of my biggest faults is an ongoing battle I have in my head every time I pick up the paintbrush. I always find myself wondering…
“Will my work measure up?”
“What will people think of what I created?”
“Will it be as good as this other designer?”
These are questions which go through my head practically every second of the day. Combine them with my need for approval, and there’s a pretty good chance at the end of every project, I feel like I didn’t get it right.
There’s a place for creativity in our lives, and it looks different for every person. Whether it be writing, singing, taking pictures, or designing for the web. There’s nothing wrong with doubting the process—I think we all do at times.
I love what Emily Freeman says, and I completely agree with her:
“I used to think that writers of books took years and years to write out their ideas and only when they had it perfectly figured out did they decide they might like to get it published.”
There’s so much truth in that, and I’m sure at some point in our creative lives we’ve said the same thing to ourselves. I know I have, and the envy I have of writers like Emily is off the charts. It’s the same envy I have of the best designers, those who take pictures, and those who write music.
We all have imperfections. And if you’re like me, you have many of them.
One important thing I’m learning as an artist is that it’s better to embrace imperfection than to expect perfection. Because the reality is nothing is perfect.
Every window has a crack in it. Every tree has a broken branch. Every design has a pixel out of place. Every song has a note sung out of tune.
I’m getting better at believing this, though I admit it’s difficult at times. But in the end, I’m doing my best to enjoy what I’m doing—to be satisfied I’m doing what I love, and what I feel deep in my heart I was meant to do.
Designing for the Soul
Each winter, a group of friends and I head to Colorado and spend some time in the mountains. It provides a much-needed break for us all, mainly from the monotony of our everyday lives.
While I was there this past year, I was reminded of something that eludes me more than I’d like it to admit—consumption of the soul. I explained this struggle to my friends in the context of skiing, but I learned it in the context of surfing.
There’s a term called “soul surfer,” which is well-defined by Wikipedia:
“Soul surfer is a term coined in the 1960s, used to describe a surfer who surfs for the sheer pleasure of surfing. Although they may still enter in competitions, winning is not the soul surfer’s main motive, since they scorn the commercialization of surfing.”
The idea is to remove the noise and distractions we have and to focus on the why of participation. I spent most of my time on the mountain focusing on the love I have for skiing, rather than the metrics or value I place on my ability to ski.
I feel the same way towards design. While I’m susceptible to straying from time to time, I try to remain in the mindset of being a soul designer—I want to design because I enjoy designing.
I don’t want to design to see how many themes I can sell, rather because I love to design them. I want to enable fellow creative entrepreneurs a quicker, easier way to establish a web presence. In baseball terms, for the love of the game.
Like many aspects of life, we tend to allow the noise and distraction into our work, and we end up with canvases that are cluttered. We shouldn’t feel the pressure to include, instead we should be looking for things to exclude.
So I’m issuing a challenge to you to look inward, and see if the work you produce as an artist reflects an overabundance of elements in your life which aren’t necessary. If it does, go out of your way to remove them.