You may have heard that writer Joan Didion passed away last week. I love this quote from her:
I start a book and I want to make it perfect, want it to turn every color, want it to be the world. Ten pages in, I’ve already blown it, limited it, made it less, marred it. That’s very discouraging. I hate the book at that point. After a while I arrive at an accommodation: Well, it’s not the ideal, it’s not the perfect object I wanted to make, but maybe — if I go ahead and finish it anyway — I can get it right next time. Maybe I can have another chance.
It reminds me of my own process. I start on a new painting and I have a wonderful image of it in my mind. But I can’t translate that image to the canvas. Then I have to go with what is and make it into something worthy, if not exactly what I had originally planned.
The same thing happens with my woven scarves and my collage pieces. They’re not the perfect I had hoped for. But as Joan says, I finish them anyway, and try to get it right next time. Except next time it’s the same thing all over again.
Life is like that, too, isn’t it? It’s not the perfect we would like it to be. It’s messy and complicated. There’s beauty, but there are also things that displease us. People don’t behave in ways we would like.
So what do we do? How do we move through this quagmire? We put one foot in front of the other and we keep going. We carry on trying to get it right, knowing that perfection is not possible.
If we’re lucky, we learn acceptance — accepting the imperfection that is our constant companion. We learn to modify our expectations and appreciate things for what they are.
If we’re really, really lucky, we learn to embrace and enjoy imperfection, seeing a certain grace in the shortcoming itself.
The piece at the top is a collage that wasn’t working out. It started off as a paean to the phases of the moon, but it didn’t look good. I gave it a light spray of black paint, then used red spray paint and a stencil, and finally a splatter of gold, none of which helped.
At that point I gave up on it and decided to sand it down so I could reuse the wood panel. That’s when it took on a life of its own! Now it looks like an ancient artifact discovered in an archaeological dig, and I love the mysteriousness of it.
What effect does imperfection have on your life? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.
With love and appreciation,
Piece at top: “Lunacy,” 12 x 12 inches, collage on wood panel.