Got a topic I’ve been struggling with and wanted to see if anyone
wanted to throw in their two cents on it. This “issue” was uncovered
in my mind through participation in the Artist’s Way program I
mentioned several weeks ago. I’ll first go into my question, then
follow up with observations on the Artist’s Way program at the end,
for those who are interested.
One of the artist blocks identified in the book is perfectionism:
“Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has
nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards.
Perfectionism is the refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop-
an obsessive debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck
in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to
lose sight of the whole.” Of course, this is just one paragraph, and
the author elaborates further on this concept.
I should state that this program is obviously not specific to
jewelers. This is used by actors, writers, painters, musicians, etc.
My take on this is that some of these other disciplines are much more
subjective, and what some might consider lack of perfection in these
fields can be interpreted as artistic license. My feeling is that
patrons in the field of jewelry have expectations, and there are
traditions in the field of jewelry that makes our field different in
Would you folks agree with this? Am I holding onto this block - which
I do obsess about - or is the field of jewelry and metalsmithing
unique in the expectation of perfectionism in a creative field?
Okay, I promised “periodic” updates on the Artist’s Way when I
embarked on this a couple months ago. As a reminder, or for those who
missed it, The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron, outlining a 12
week program to “discover and recover your creative self.” All I can
say is, “Wow!” I’m on week nine now, having skipped a week being out
of town with in-laws and repeating one week I felt I had glazed over.
Since I’m doing it alone, I am trying to look at myself and my
situation objectively to see what applies, and what’s relevant. I lot
of the stuff is eye opening and really hits home. “She’s got my
number”, I’ll find myself saying! Some of it is very subtle, but
profound. Because the program is geared toward a variety of
disciplines and a broad audience, I find some of the things don’t
apply… but then wonder if I’m just in denial.
For example, the subject of jealousy. Apparently some blocked artists
are jealous of those who are successful, and possibly less talented,
and this can evolve into a “block.” After doing some soul searching (a
lot of that involved in this program), I don’t think I have that
block. Those who are successfully where I’d like to be in five years
have my admiration, and possibly envy, but I don’t believe I’m jealous
Two key components of the program are writing three handwritten
"morning pages" every day, and doing an “artist date” with yourself
every week. It’s tough to sit down and do the pages every morning…
especially when you have projects lined up on the bench… but it’s
valuable. I hate spending the time on it when I’m “chomping at the
bit” to get going, but it has some odd therapeutic value. Throw this
in with my regular morning routine, and it seems almost impossible for
me to get out to the studio before 11:00 AM! I’d like to keep this up,
even after the 12 weeks, but the time becomes an issue. You just have
to be as disciplined as possible to do it. I have skipped days, and
cut days short (less than three pages).
You can usually churn out 1-1.5 pages on auto-pilot. After that, you
run out of fodder and have to start digging in your mind, and that’s
when you start hitting pay dirt. I found (through one of the earlier
chapters) that having CNN or the news TV on is bad for this, because
all the chatter makes it difficult to hear the inner voices.
I think I initially overshot the objectives for the artist date. I
was in pursuit of Art, not art. Since my inner artist is seen as a
developing child, this should be more of a “play date” than a
high-brow encounter with cultural masters. The artist date should be
fun, not an intimidating encounter with Artists who have degrees,
credentials and honors in a world whose values I don’t understand.
From the book, regarding academia: “… many talented creatives are
daunted early and unfairly by their inability to conform to a norm
that was not their own.”
I usually read my new chapter on Monday morning, then do morning
pages. I reread the chapter with a highlighter on Thursday, and work
on some of the tasks (exercises). It’s most difficult to do morning
pages on the weekend when my wife and daughter are at home. I’m sure I
can’t see some of the progress I’m making because I’m too close. Only
after putting the program into use for several months will I really be
able to observe the result.
If you’re having difficulty realizing your creative reality,
especially if you can’t figure out why, this program is for you!
Paralyzed by procrastination? Unable to to get moving? You may well be
blocked - and by identifying and working with these blocks, you can
remove them and the related conflicts so things move in harmony. Not
forcing, but allowing and facilitating the creative process.
Anyway… just thought I’d give an update to those interested. Please
feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments!
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)