Last week I read over the 31 micro-memoirs I’ve been working on for the past month and a half. A heavy feeling settled into my bones: they weren’t that great. A couple of the pieces were strong, but most were mediocre and needed work, and many were to be tossed.
A few days later I was on a plane to visit my sister in Sedona when I started reading The Creative Act by famed music producer Rick Rubin (thanks to a recommendation by fellow writer Shelby Settles Harper).
In his chapter on collaboration, Rubin says:
“The inspired artist aspect of your self may be in a conflict with the craftsperson aspect, disappointed that the craftsperson is unable to create the physical embodiment of the inspired artist’s vision. This is a common conflict for creators, since there is no direct conversion from abstract thought to the material world.”
Over the weekend with my sister, among the red rocks and the cacti and the healers and visionaries, I wondered if perfectionism is about the discrepancy between fantasy and real life. As Rubin says about the creative act, “turning something from an idea into a reality can make it seem smaller. It changes from unearthly to earthly.”
On Sunday as Southwest Airlines was flying me back home, I wrote in my notebook: “The inspired artist must be patient — explaining and directing, guiding and nudging. The craftsperson must steadily do the work, always practicing, always learning. Not getting discouraged with her imperfect abilities.”
At the beginning of a new project, the craftsperson may warn the inspired artist when ideas are too complex, reminding her of limits in experience levels and time. Eventually, they must decide when they have reached a reasonable outcome, so that the work may be released and new work can begin.
When the inspired artist self walks away from a project, disillusioned with her creation, the craftsperson self can say, “Hey wait, you gave me this assignment a month and a half ago! Some pieces are not that good, but they just need more revision.”
Be patient with me. Stay in touch with inspiration. Sit beside me. Have faith in me.