Monday, December 31, 2018

Wabi Sabi and the Inner Critic

Last week, I showed the book I made using a coptic binding. There were a few comments about the fear of writing in the book and messing it up. So I thought I'd share a post from from March 2014 because we need to be reminded from time to time:

An artist friend had an interesting blog post the other day. She expressed her feelings about not always being satisfied with her own style, and she wondered if others felt this way, too.

I'm sure she is not alone. She's brave and honest for admitting her negative feelings in an ether-world where feelings are projected as rainbow unicorns all the time.

I think we all compare ourselves to others, and because we can be hard on ourselves, we come up short. We listen to the little voice. That voice, the one that says we're not good, or not good enough, or wonders why we can't be more like [insert name of artist, author, person]  is The Inner Critic.

An author friend told me about an exercise she had to do at a writing workshop. She was given a small scrap of paper and envelope. On the paper, she was told to draw a portrait of herself or something that would represent her. When the drawing was completed, she was to fold the paper, stuff it in the envelope, and seal the envelope shut. That's where the Inner Critic belongs. Out of sight, out of earshot, out of mind.

To listen to The Inner Critic, to believe the words, to internalize the words is destructive. Those negative words destroy creativity and spirit. Harry Chapin's Flowers are Red illustrates the point.

The Inner Critic exercise was a good one, but it hit home for me when Himself's karate group was having a discussion about their forms. As martial artists, they worried their forms weren't good enough and when would they ever grasp the elusive ideal of perfection? Could they ever be perfect? Someone brought up  Wabi Sabi, a Japanese concept. Wabi Sabi states: Nothing is perfect. Nothing is permanent and nothing is complete.

There were times I'd worry about making the first mark on a sheet of pristine paper. What would happen if I made a mistake or ruined the paper? The feeling was terrifying, sometimes paralyzing. And silly because no one was going to die if I smeared ink on the paper. Wabi Sabi gave me confidence to try and perhaps fail. I just had to believe in myself and my abilities. I found this concept so freeing applied to myself and my own work. I used to fret that the lettering in my journals wasn't "perfect". Sometimes, I'd tear out journal pages to start again. Which really defeats the purpose of keeping a journal.  Wabi Sabi made me realize, "you don't need the feather to fly, Dumbo." I didn't need to rule up lines. My work became more spontaneous and full of life, and I found I can pretty much write a straight line without guidelines.

I can't make perfect letters, but I can strive for perfection. The work I do today will be better than what I did yesterday. Tomorrow's work will be better than work I did today because I'm still growing, still reaching towards perfection. I'm good enough for today. I'll be better tomorrow.  I have my own voice because I know I won't be happy painting "flowers in neat rows of green and red."

So my friend, embrace Wabi Sabi. Deep down, you know you're good, and you don't need the feather to fly.

17 comments:

  1. Very sound advice. No-one can do more than his or her best. Valerie

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  2. Nice post. I think that is a hard idea to accept-the fact that we don't always like what we do/make/write, etc. The good side to that is that it drives us to improve what we do. But sometimes accepting that it will never be what we want it to be is hard. Especially is someone wants it so badly that becomes a major life focus. I always feel that when I make something, like a book, if I don't like the writing I can paint over it or start again. And now that I am getting older I am accepting my imperfections more-like not getting anything in a straight line. But, you can't stop wanting to improve, can you? Thanks for this thought provoking post, and hope I didn't babble on too much. Hugs-Erika

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful remark. Sometimes putting things away and coming back to them with fresh eyes gives a new perspective, too. And as you said, if there's something that you really don't like, you can paint over and start again.

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  3. What a thought provoking post and very sound advice as we enter the New year! I love your viewpoint; I think all we can do is give of our best and learn from that experience then strive to do better next time πŸ˜‰. Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year! J 😊 x

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  4. It's a hard lesson to learn.... :-/ Appreciate the journey, not the destination. (Although, the destination can sometimes be pretty cool!)

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    1. But the destination will become the start of another journey

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  5. I appreciate the encouragement, but somehow I'm still scared to make the first mark in a book I put so much effort in. I think I'd have to do my work on a separate base and then attach it afterwards ;) Or maybe use a book that wasn't _that_ special :) My artistic endeavors have been long behind me, but I'm going to try to be brave during this new year :)

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    1. And you can do that, too. Work on a separate sheet of paper and then tip it in. Just remember you will need to remove a page or pages so the book will close shut.

      We need to remember that we are worthy to draw, write, use that good piece of paper or book. How sad for paper or a journal to languish in a drawer until we feel we're good enough.

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  6. An inspiring post to welcome in a new year.
    I agree nothing is ever 100% perfect. Though my Mrs. Claus Workshop sign probably comes the closest:)
    Wishing you joy, prosperity, good health and peace in 2019.

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    1. I'm glad Mrs. Claus enjoyed the sign and a Happy and Creative New Year to you.

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  7. When I first started making art, I was rubbish. I knew it and so did others. My friend Scott, who is brutally honest told me my art looked like a 3 year old made it. He wasn't wrong. Since I couldn't afford to take any classes, I decided to study how others made art.

    I know I can't draw, I don't write well since the arthritis I was born with has gotten so bad in my fingers (although some days are much better than others), and I also know I don't have a lot of the tools others have. BUT, and this is the biggie. I have learned a few skills, have always been good with color, and am getting better at composition. I used to worry about what others thought. Now I take it in stride and focus on things I'm actually good at. No inner critic here, but it's really good advice for those who worry about what and who they are as artists. It is certainly a very hopeful post, dear CJ.

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    1. Art is so subjective. As you said, pleasing yourself is most important.

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