Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept that embraces transience and imperfection.
The Shakers are known for their simple, classic furniture style. They believed that one should not aspire to the perfection of God. In their simple woodcraft they include a flaw, thereby keeping the work as humble as their faith.
The Navajos weave an imperfection into their blankets. It is their belief that the “flaw” makes the blanket more beautiful.
Yet our society tells us to strive for perfection, that anything less is failure. Striving for perfection, however, can sometimes paralyze us. Things rarely go as we plan them. I say embrace your creative flaws. Understand them and own them. Exercise your creative muscle. It’s how we respond to the twists and turns of life that gives our life it’s quality. It’s our creative muscle that can lift us up during turbulent times. That same muscle can help us, even power us through creative blocks.
It’s important to know and understand your own unique creative process. Understanding your process means you can consciously change it up. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, “Big Magic”, she writes of getting dressed up for your creativity as you would for a lover. Change it up, get out of your bathrobe, let yourself feel your beauty and take your creativity into your arms like a lover.
Embrace the Flaw
Children are naturally creative. They haven’t learned the woulds and shoulds of striving for perfection. They live life with simple creative joy. One of the favorite projects from my daughter’s childhood was her taking advantage of a “broken” project. She was making a plaster of her handprint when the caste broke in half. Instead of seeing it as a broken hand, she turned it into a face. Of the many art projects from her youth, it is one that I kept and is still on display.
Exercising the Creative Muscle
I saw a cracked mirror on the side of the road in a trash pile on the way to work. As I drove past it I thought that it would look great in my garden. I have a long weathered fence that dominates the small garden and the mirror was very large. It had a gold ornate frame. It looked like it could have been in a House of Ill Repute. Gaudy and shiny things draw me in and amuse me. It’s like catching worthless beads at Mardi Gras, I don’t want one single strand, I want to wear a hundred strands of colorful beads, only during the parade. It’s transient and imperfect. It’s not classic and timeless. I know this about myself and embrace it.
I drove two blocks past the cracked mirror and turned around and went back to get it. It was dirty and weathered and so big it barely fit into my car. My creative wheels started turning. Before long I knew I wanted to embrace the crack, the obvious flaw. I bounced ideas around with a friend. By the time I got the mirror home after my workday, I knew I would etch a vine along the crack. Since it was going outside I needed to put caulk on the edge where backing meets the frame and to put waterproof paint on the back.
So with the help of my sweetie, it’s now hanging in our garden. It’s my interpretation of wabi-sabi. Perfectly imperfect. I know it’s transient—it’s living in the hot, humid Louisiana weather. I don’t know if I’ll have it for a season or for years. But for the present, it hangs outside my bedroom window and expands my small sliver of a garden. It gives me joy every time I look at it.
Embrace the New Direction
Embrace your imperfections, your flaws, your creative blocks. Ray Strother said in a Creative Hero blog post, “Creativity is the spark of God.” When your project or your life turns in an unexpected direction, embrace the change. Know there is divine inspiration when the creative spirit takes you in a new direction.
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