Sent by Kim Klein
There will always be people who think that to be a genuine artist you need to have an MFA, or to be an actor or a musician of substance, you need to have attended Juilliard, or that to write, you must be an English major and frequent small, dark pubs. There are wine snobs, literary snobs, art snobs, and, let’s face it, just plain snobs.
But, the truth is we are all born creative beings; it is not just a luxury given to a chosen few.
As children, we sing, paint, write poetry, make sculptures, sand castles, mud pies, and culinary treats from our Easy Bake ovens and we believe, without a doubt, that every one of these brilliant creations is worthy of gifting and display.
Then, somewhere along the line something happens; we become the recipient of someone’s criticism. Self-doubt sets in. We then continue on to become our own worst critic. We start to sing a little less loudly in the school choir, stop wearing our funky striped socks because no one else is wearing them, and quit the pottery class because our stuff just “isn’t good enough.” Our creative side slowly recedes for fear of ridicule, failure or disappointment.
When I was completing my Feng Shui training, we had to do a final thesis. I chose to do something about the importance of infusing our own chi (energy) into the art and items that surround us. I decided to make one piece of art per life area, using the colors, elements and energy that seemed applicable. But, since I couldn’t really paint, I thought I would try both collage and assemblage, using pieces of fabric, CDs, fake gemstones, chopsticks, metal objects — anything that was different and that seemed to work aesthetically. People loved my creations and I was able to place them in sushi restaurants, hair salons, yoga studios and coffee houses. To my surprise I even sold several pieces!
I found that part of what attracted people to my work was that it was imperfect and in that sense, it mirrored life itself.
I have always been a writer. I started as a young teen, writing lyrics to sing along with the three chords I knew on my Yamaha guitar. I then graduated to poetry and writing creative short stories. I wrote for myself. From my heart. It was cathartic, cleansing, and I wrote as if I was talking to my best friend.
I’ve gone on to write and publish a few more books and many articles and I always write exactly the way I talk. I worried that it might not be good enough, not enough fancy words, and then I thought of Hemmingway, who wrote simply and at about a 4th grade level. I even found spelling errors in some of my favorite novels, and I realized, this happens to everyone!
The best of the best still miss a word here or there. There was no perfect. And it doesn’t matter! Telling your story or creating your art is what matters.
Coming from the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, where beauty is found in all things impermanent and imperfect, we can learn to embrace and accept that “perfect” is what we already are. With that acceptance, there is no chance of failing. We can sing a little off key, and it is okay. We can set the table with mismatched dinnerware, and it is acceptable. We can live with our own changing bodies, faces and attitudes, and find beauty in all the different ages and stages.
When we look at life through Wabi Sabi colored glasses, everything becomes a work of art. Even us.
It was funny because using the Wabi Sabi protective shield gave my artwork a new validity when I claimed that I knew full well that my pieces were sometimes a bit off-center or that the cuts in the fabric had frayed ends, or that pieces that I placed on my canvases had a bit of rust, a scratch or even a hole in them. And it was completely accepted as Wabi Sabi beautiful.
Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder and we all get to choose how we view things. Drippings of glaze on a piece of pottery, the unpainted edges of a painting, the irregular curves of a ceramic bowl, a story that scares the wits out of you or one that makes you jump for joy – all of these things have an authenticity and life to them, what we call Wabi Sabi. We can rest knowing that the fallen soufflé we lovingly baked will still taste no less than absolutely delicious. Perfectionism can be boring and so overrated!
If you are having trouble letting go of fast and hard expectations and the judgments of others, I urge you to explore the philosophy of Wabi Sabi. Adopting this philosophy as my own, I know that I don’t have to have any degrees, formal training, or acceptance from the outside world to create, to live fully and to follow my passion. And guess what? Neither do you.
Want more from Kim Klein? (I know I do!) Check out our conversation called, Overcoming the Need to be Perfect, over in the Expert Q+A area.