I don’t think of myself as a classic perfectionist, but it can show up in sneaky ways. Like thinking I half-ass everything when I actually don’t. Or, as I told my therapist once, that I’m not nearly good enough to be a perfectionist. Which someone completely lacking in perfectionism probably wouldn’t say.
The idea of freeing myself from my own harsh judgment sounds liberating. It is liberating, in fact. I know because I’ve done it sometimes.
When I was first learning how to make pictures (still learning, and will always be learning), I’d get so frustrated. I would read all about the exposure triangle, for example, then practice, then promptly forget and sometimes give up for a while. Unlike when I was young, however, I did not give up permanently. Some tenacious part of me was like, fuck this shit, I want to learn. Now I look back on some of my early photographs and some of them are actually pretty good. Not technically perfect, for sure, but interesting. Many of them of course are really bad, but even though I cringe, I feel a bit of affection for them and for the me that kept going.
Last year, I went to a Rex Ray exhibition in San Francisco. His work was stunning–gorgeous colors and shapes, cut paper that looks like paintings, precise and maybe perfectionistic. And yet super playful. I was drawn to his initial sketches, too, and encouraged that they did not have “perfect” cuts, and in some cases were even a little uneven. With practice, they became more precise. But all of the work on display was inspiring to me, each piece its own kind of perfection.
I’m not sure I will ever be technically perfect. I’m not even sure I’d recognize that if I somehow managed to create it. For now, I’m working with good enough, as I define it, and always with feeling.
How about you?
Do you have any perfectionistic tendencies? If so, what is on the other side of perfectionism? Permission to “suck” once in a while? To play? Creative freedom, maybe?