Monthly Archives: May 2007

Process, Not Perfection

I started an Artist’s Way group. I’m a big believer in the healing power of creativity and community. The two combined are a wonder drug. We meet weekly and we’re working through the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Creative recovery, she calls it. For me it’s been more like creative uncovery, or discovery. I’m learning as I go.
One of last week’s writing tasks was to make a list: what would I do if I didn’t have to do it perfectly? I scoffed at the exercise. “I wish I was a perfectionist! That’s not my problem.” Of course, I should know better than to ignore writing tasks in the AW that I initially scoff at. They’re usually the ones that come back to bite me in my ass a week later, pulling the most amazing crap out of my subconscious.
My previous definition of a perfectionist was someone who did something and was never satisfied with the results, or couldn’t stop making changes en route to flawlessness. That’s not me. I simply don’t do it to begin with.
Cue: little light bulb appearing over my head. How about a definition that includes not doing something at all because you’re not sure you could do it perfectly? Or abandoning it completely when you become sure you cannot?
We were sitting on the floor of the Good Karma Room in my house, eating Washington cherries and looking at my collection of old 45’s. When I put the archival box back up on the shelf, I saw the box of piano tuning equipment and brought it down with me.
I opened it to show them all the cool stuff you get to play with when you’re tuning pianos. I like tools. And gear. I like new interests because it means I can procure new tools and gear. My piano technician box is filled with mysterious bolts of felt, hammers that look like medieval torture devices, tuning forks, files, dampers and pins. I love to look at them, turn them over in my hands. I love that in this highly-digitized and decidedly un-tactile world, there are still professions that are manual in every sense of the word.
In the spirit of creative uncovery, I was explaining to them how I wanted to be a piano tuner because it’s so mathematical. You’re always, and without question, right or wrong — with objective devices to prove it. A good piano tuner finishes her job knowing she is right. There are no mistakes to make. You simply tune until you hit the correct pitch.
It’s like math. Unless you’re Thom Yorke, 2 + 2 = 4. Always.
In moments of creative desperation, I’ve thrown notebooks into the abyss, wailing to the heavens that I simply wanted to be an accountant. That’s all. I want to pick a stupid occupation, get my required training, and do my perfectly right job. There is no question whether or not your balance sheet is too this or too that, if your equations are unoriginal or clichéd, if you’ve chosen fictional figures when you should have relied on narrative decimals. You just. Do. The math.
With creative endeavors, you’re never sure. And while one might argue that in “art” you can’t be “wrong” – well, that also means you’re never truly “right”. I’ve been having a hard time living with that.
I may write a piece I feel is a stunning work of art, yet one person disagreeing means I’m wrong. Or simply not good enough. And I definitely can’t live with that.
So, you see, it’s much easier to be a blocked writer doing math than a prolific writer tossing words out into the world that are sometimes good and sometimes otherwise.
Funny thing is — I hate math.
I’ve never considered myself someone who always has to be “right”. In arguments, I’m always open to suggestion, I like to consider the other side of the story, I constantly update my beliefs and goals based on new information. I don’t need to win debates or competitions. I have no problem asking for directions or admitting an error.
So why, when it comes to art, am I so afraid of being wrong?
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Joseph Chilton Pearce, and I had it hanging over my desk for years: “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” Looking at that quote for years, it’s strange I hadn’t felt its gravity until last night.
What’s a girl to do – put down her pen in favor of a tuning fork, or put out a string of words whose quality is open for debate?
All I know, and all I keep coming back to, is that I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. Last weekend I was sorting through and archiving the creative output of the last 25 years. Keeping it safe, helping it withstand the test of time. I sat there holding the novel-length work I wrote about a family of field mice named “The Windfields,” which I dedicatedly labored over by hand on wide-ruled penmanship paper, and which my grandmother typed up for me on her ancient manual typewriter. It was those typewritten pages I held in my hand, feeling their weight. I turned it over to see the date penciled in my mother’s handwriting: 1984. I was eight years old.
When you go to a family-friendly live music show, like a local country band playing on the green, you see the kids dancing. As soon as they can stand, they’re bouncing to the music. They’re flailing their arms, spinning around, lost in the joy of sound and movement. The adults watch them – some obliviously, some wishing they felt that free.
At what age do we gain our fear of being wrong? Is there a specific day when we stop dancing recklessly in public? What day was it when I put down my pen and said, “I’m not going to write today – I might say something wrong”? Cause I can’t imagine that nine-year-old girl who sat at her Commodore 64, hours on end, churning out a novel about the horseracing industry called “Lead Me to Victory” ever thought she was wrong. That maybe she shouldn’t write the stories dancing in her head day and night, that maybe she wasn’t good enough. That no one had invited her to submit her written words to the world. That nobody asked her. She didn’t give a fuck, and she didn’t even know she didn’t give a fuck. She just did what came naturally, without fear or self-flagellation.
It makes me sad to imagine the day when she received harshly-delivered criticism from a blocked teacher who taught because she could no longer write. Some stinging, destructive comment that made her pause the next time she sat down at her computer to let her dreams spill onto the page. The day doubt was installed into her mind.
I wish I could tell that little girl – NO. Don’t let someone else’s weighted criticism stop you from doing what you were obviously born to do. Don’t ever let anyone else decide what you put on that page. You can’t possibly allow the off-handed comments of others to make you put down that pen. It would be a crime against nature, against the gods of creativity, against the universe. I wish I could tell her that in art, there’s no such thing as being “wrong.”
In a way, I guess I just did.

Grow Yer Own

Ravenna Gardens on Queen Anne

Went for a walk on Saturday from 11th Ave W up to Queen Anne Ave. in the springtime early eve. These are the images I saw on the way. I didn’t mean to take so many photos of flowers, but it’s just PURPLE and I can’t help it! Hope you enjoy nonetheless.

Click here for the gallery.


Happy May Day! Did you get your Maypole ready? I’m all about dancing around with colored ribbons this time of year, myself.
This morning I received a reply from a domain squatting company I contacted about the purchase of I aquired awhile back. But I get a little obsessive about things, and I simply won’t be able to rest until the real domain is mine. I think it should be illegal for companies to use a script to buy up millions of domains and then not use them, just hold onto them for years hoping someone will cough up money for it. There are so many good domain names out there that have nothing but a squatter search page on them. It’s such a waste.

“Thank you for your interest in the domain name Prices of Premium Domains like are rising due to high demand. This domain’s current market price is $2,088.00 US dollars. This is a one-time payment. This price is only valid for seven(7) days from the date of this email. The sales and transfer process is very quick and safe and you will obtain complete ownership of the domain name.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but “market price” reflects the amount of money consumers are willing to pay for something. Nobody in their right mind would fork over that kind of dough for a domain name. Before I got the quote, I entertained notions of buying the domain for the outrageous sum of $500 — deciding that would be my limit. I was thinking more like $250. And if $2,088 is the current market price, why have they been holding that domain for 5 years? I’m quite irritated by the whole thing, but I refuse to settle for dot org status.
We got some sun on Sunday. Not a lot, but enough to get me through another month of these May showers.
Pic from my back porch, where it is beginning to grow very green:


That’s all for now. More to follow soon. I have a date with some ribbons.