Carolyn writes: On Imperfection



The subject of perfection vs. imperfection keeps coming up. I’ve been hearing about the dangers of perfectionism from prominent writers like Brene Brown, the author of “The Gift of Imperfection,” and Anne Lamott, who writes in her book, “Bird by Bird” (her book about writing), that “perfection is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.”

In a recent article in Creativity Post, the mythologist Allison Stieger explores the myth of Hephaestus, a god who was wounded by an act of violence committed against him by a family member – he was made lame – and yet, in spite of his imperfection and his wound, he contributed artistically as a god on Mt. Olympus and used his skills in service to the world.

His brokenness was the catalyst for his art.

“We are tempted to excuse ourselves from creativity by blaming our brokenness, our imperfection, our scars,” Stieger writes, “but our strongest and best work can grow out of that very imperfection…our very brokenness is one of the strongest tools available to us. Out of that brokenness the most beautiful art can grow.”

Leonard Cohen tells us in his song, “Anthem,” to

“Ring the bell that you can ring
forget your perfect offering
there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in”

None of us will ever be perfect – “there is a crack in everything” – but we can learn to find what Henri Nouwen calls the “blessing in the brokenness,” the gift in the struggle, and that way we are vulnerable and living wholeheartedly and telling the truth – which is what people want from us – from artists.

Rather than have a goal of perfection, why not do what Neil Gaiman suggests and vow to make a lot of mistakes this year?

“Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough,” Gaiman writes, “or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

That way, we are always growing, always learning, and will always have something positive and original to share with the world.

Forget the perfect offering!



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6 responses to “Carolyn writes: On Imperfection

  1. Thank you for posting this here. I think it is such an important thing to think about, not just for others, but for myself.

  2. This is so empowering! Thanks, Carolyn!

  3. What an encouraging read. Thanks for this heart felt exhortation. I often feel broken or less than in my new writing endeavor.

  4. Yup!! Amen! I’ve always loved that Leonard Cohen quote.

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