Creativity Myth #7: Creativity should be perfect.

This Fall Quarter, students enrolled in Courtney Putnam’s HUMAN 210 course (part one in the year-long series to produce Cascadia’s creative arts magazine Yours Truly) are reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and debunking common myths about creativity, myths that Gilbert addresses in her book. In the following post, Cascadia students Parlin and Efrain address the myth that your creativity should be perfect.

Imperfection is Perfection

by Parlin Shields and Efrain Aguilar

artStriving for perfection is not a new concept. We are congratulated for being the smartest, for being the fastest, for being the thinnest. Practice makes perfect. Our culture has been nudging us towards “perfection” for as long as we can remember, and it takes some real world experience to realize that this “perfection” they told us about when we were young is only a myth.

But the thing is, perfection does exist. It exists in the machine made and freaks of nature. The human race has used perfection as a tool for survival. Perfection is different depending on the discipline. Like beauty, perfection is subjective, and shifts over culture and time. Are humans perfect? No. If everything had to be perfect, then by golly! nothing would ever happen. People would just stand around stewing in their own inherent failure waiting for genius to pounce—waiting for their muse to shell out some goddamn brilliant ideas.

The need for “perfect” can paralyze you. It’s hard to create when you are scared of the outcome. Fear is the dirty little side effect nobody really likes talking about. “I’ve been absolutely terrified [of creating] every minute of my life” said artist Georgia O’Keeffe, “and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” So you aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. Humans are chock full of flaws, and that’s OK.

bronzeWell our flaws make us human, and being flawed makes for an interesting life. It gives us character! And culture! And our emotions, for crying out loud!

If art can never be truly perfect, than no brushstroke, angle of a shot, or note of music can ever be the same. But imperfection really is perfection. Imperfection is beautiful. Flaws are beautiful. If everything had to be perfect then we would never hear rock n’ roll, or witness the dada movement. “The diversity in our creative expression is fantastic,” writes author Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic.

So live your creative life. Live without constraints. Live without striving for perfection. Draw! Paint! Write! Concoct! Create! People aren’t perfect, but you are unique, you are flawed—and beautifully so. “Whether you think you’re brilliant or you think you’re a loser,” says Elizabeth Gilbert, “Just make whatever you need to make and toss it out there.” All you have to remember is imperfection is perfection.

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