Good enough: Musings on the elusive quest for perfection


Creative endeavors that ignore the God of Good Enough in favor of the God of Perfection bear the burden of potentially never coming to fruition. Writers, photographers and painters who wait for their work to achieve perceived perfection before sharing their gift with the world risk never being seen or heard. They risk never allowing themselves to be seen as the beautiful imperfect beings they are, they risk avoiding connection with their audience.

I was an Artist-in-Residence at Rocky Mountain National Park during the summer of 2012* and during my public presentations chose to read drafts or works in progress and spoke about how something that seemed like ‘nothing’ often developed into a full blown essay over time. I explained how I’ve learned that the things that capture my attention must be attended to. I explained that no, I do not have a MFA, have not finished my first book, nor am I ‘trained’ as a writer. But because I experience and make sense of the world through words I have spent years learning about the elements of my craft, and yes, I still have much to learn. My work is never perfect and when I review old writing, I often recoil when I witness the things I did not do well.

The audience visibly relaxed with this sharing. I like to think that perhaps they were wondering if this meant that they were being given permission to begin their creative endeavor without a formal graduation into their art. What the hell is that anyway?

We all begin where we are. And that commencement is something to be celebrated.

I led a workshop not long ago and as the participants introduced themselves and shared why they were there, I noticed a trend. “I don’t have confidence. I’m not good enough.” The tyranny of ‘not enough’ is universal and I personally know it well. I have worked all my life to feel I am enough. But I’ve also learned that awaiting perfection is not only a waste of time, it is death to my work.

During that same conference, participants brainstormed answers to the question, “What is keeping you from your remarkable work?” Responses included words like fear, confidence, time, knowledge and so on. I said, “Those are all self-imposed barriers. You are the one not giving yourself permission to be good enough.” There was silence for a moment. I can say such things because I know these barriers well.

Perfection is always late to the party and arrives wearing a seductive but elusive smile. Perfection never lets herself be known. The truth of the matter is all art bears a direct resemblance to the artist and hence will always be imperfect. This is the inherent beauty. We all begin where we are, and your beginning is uniquely you. Beautiful imperfect you.

No you are not perfect. But you are good enough.

*I’ll speak about this experience on 5/4 at Louisville Public Library. Join me!


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