The Power of Imperfection

“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection . . .”
                        — Edith Schaeffer
I recently went to a local pizza parlor to pick up a “to-go” pizza. As I waited, I smiled at the artwork of children who had entered the pumpkin contest. I’ll admit, my eye was first drawn to the “perfect” pumpkin – but only because it is the very one I would have drawn as a child. Orange, with black triangular eyes, and not a single mark outside of the lines.
But the picture that really made me smile was a yellow pumpkin with red circles all over it. The one called “pepperoni pumpkin.” It made me think, “Now, that’s creative!”

I recalled my own childhood, when I wanted anything and everything I created to be perfect, whether it was my school work, artwork or writing. Perfection was such a goal that I often tore up anything that did not attain my idea of perfection. In frustration, I believed anything less was garbage.

Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen that true creativity is imperfect. If artwork is to be perfect, why not just take a photograph? If writing is to show a reader the human condition, then surely it should not be flawless.

There is beauty in the imperfection of creativity, and it should provoke a variety of thoughts and emotions in its beholder. So, go ahead – color outside of the lines. I’ve learned (and am still learning,) it makes life a whole lot more interesting.

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7 Responses to The Power of Imperfection

  1. LeAynne says:

    Years ago I was watching a program for teachers on an educational station. The presenter (whose name I wish I knew so I could give him credit)said "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly."For me, that really helped.He wasn't saying not to strive for excellence. He wasn't saying to let mediocre be good enough. He was just saying that to be good at something (anything), you have to keep doing it, even if you're not very good at it."If it is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly."We've all heard the original saying – the one that ends with the word "right." That statement feels like a hammer on the head. But with the last word merely changed to "poorly," what I hear becomes freeing.Encouraging. And I carry on joyfully.

  2. I love this Jan! Thank goodness we don't have to be perfect! Where would the adventure be? Imperfection leaves room for exploration, learning, growing, and discovery. Beautiful message and so freeing!!

  3. Jan Morrill says:

    LeAynne, I like that – "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly." It's so true when you think about what didn't get done, or in my case, what got thrown away, because it was "done poorly," or, at least not perfectly.Linda, you're right – it is freeing, isn't it? I do have to keep reminding myself though. How many times do I quit writing, because it isn't "perfect?" It's a real limiting factor.

  4. Our CEO at Tyson, Donnie Smith, encourages "failing forward." I think that's a wonderful concept and fits right in with your comments here. I think desire and effort are more important than perfection. Often we are our own worst critic, and don't know when to leave well enough alone.

  5. Jan Morrill says:

    I love that "failing forward," Russell! Nobody moves forward without some failure, and it helps to remember that when the drive for perfection holds us back. Thanks!

  6. Greg Camp says:

    I've been there. I earned an F in sixth grade art because I painted my ceramic elephant pink with blue eyes and a variety of spots. It wasn't a naturalist coloring, and it annoyed the teacher, but I liked it.What I try to do with my students is to guide them into better writing in their own voices. There are standards, yes, but once those are met, the realm of the good is broad and varied.

  7. Jan Morrill says:

    Your elephant is a perfect (excuse the pun)example, Greg. It's sad that a teacher would give an "F" just because the elephant didn't look the way she thought it should.But, it sounds like it was a teaching lesson that you've taken to heart in your own career.

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