Strive for growth and evolution over perfection

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Perfection is the enemy of your creative progress. It keeps you stuck, keeps you fearful of making ‘mistakes’ and freezes you into a ridged way of thinking. Fussing over the tiny details nobody but you can see won’t make you feel any better. Seth Godin suggests “Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important). You’re not in the perfect business. Stop pretending that’s what the world wants from you. Truly perfect is becoming friendly with your imperfections on the way to doing something remarkable.”

You don’t need your art to be perfect. Growth and progress is far more rich a reward than perfection. Jonathan Fields in How To Live a Good Life says “Remember, the thing you strive for isn’t perfection; it’s not the easy win or the avoidance of failure, it’s the gift of growth, the opportunity for evolution.”

Let your art be wonky and messy and human so you can get on with the fun of making something. Then move onto the next thing and then the next and the next, until one day in the distant future, you realise how much you’ve grown.

Practice over time and busywork

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Making art can be confronting if you feel your work doesn’t live up to your high expectations. You may, especially as a beginner, find that because your expectations are so high you immediately feel you’re failing. It doesn’t help that we downplay the importance of consistent practice over time, expecting ourselves to get better too quickly. On the Hurry Slowly podcast, Tami Forman explains “We kind of collectively hate the answer that things take longer and that time is required to produce things.”

In the episode (titled What Gets Measured, Gets Managed), Forman talks about performance and how inefficient time can be to measure it: “It is extrodinarily difficult to measure performance, both quality of performance and quantity of output. And so a time clock it feels objective and again goes back to this idea of the factory floor where literally time equalled product. The amount of time you spent on the floor was the amount of product that you created. And we haven’t come up with something better.”

The idea of busywork can make us feel like we’re achieving something, we’re earning our badge for “I worked hard today,” but it may be that you’re not actually getting any important work done. It’s familiar for us to believe time equals output, “I think this is why we struggle so much with the time thing and why we all sort of gravitate to it because it feels very objective and measurable, how much time I spent in the office is how hard I worked. And it feel imposed upon us in a way that’s comfortable.”

While practice over time is an important key in improving your art performance, so is the power of playing, taking thing slower, pottering around, resting and letting your ideas slowly hatch.

Letting yourself ponder

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Sometimes it takes time for an idea to hatch. Forcing yourself to actively think of a solution or work out all the moving parts won’t necessarily get you to a conclusion any quicker. You may need the help of your unconscious to tap into the hidden wealth of knowledge that makes up 90% of your brain power. That’s where the deep wisdom lies and by not-thinking, you may find you can access more ideas, many of which will be less linear and therefore more creative.

In the One Thing A Day podcast with Michael Nobbs, (where gentle living and gentle creating is encouraged), he explains how he’s “Just waiting for the ideas to sort of fall into place. Let myself ponder, let myself put down the pondering, let myself just think of something else for a while then come back to it and just see if the ideas have matured. I think, I think I’m getting somewhere.”

Letting yourself ponder is a key part of the creative process. Skipping it in order to think harder isn’t necessarily the way to get where you want to get.

Anticipate, savour, express, recall

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Is there a way you turn up the volume up your positive experiences? How about when it comes to your art making practice? Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project suggests “To eke out the most happiness from an experience, we must anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory.”

Applying this to an art making practice could look like the following:

Anticipe: scheduling ahead of time a space to make art and seeing it as a reward to look forwards to. Marking the date in your calendar so there’s a visual reminder leading up to it.

Savour: laying out our pens, paper, tools carefully. Sharpening your pencil slowly. Focusing on the feeling of making marks and what you experience in your body. Put on your favourite music, podcast or audio book if you enjoy having an audio backdrop when making art.

Express: writing down how it felt during the process. Bullet points, single words or a more lengthy explanation of how it felt. Telling someone else about your experience. Making another piece of art to express how you felt.

Recall: reviewing your art at a later date to recall the memory of making it. Rereading any notes you made about the experience.

Creativity is just about connecting things

“Creativity is just about connecting things. A whole lot of nonsense put together, and diluted with a creative passion can eventually make sense. Keep thinking. Exploring. Keep trying out new ways and methods of doing things and just when you least expect, you may stumble on that next great world-changing idea that will make all the difference.” ― Chinonye J. Chidolue