I just read a fabulous book called Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Through a decade of research, Dr. Brown shows that being vulnerable is not a weakness, but our greatest strength in helping us find purpose and meaning in our lives. By saying that “I am enough,” instead of trying to be perfect, we can transform the way we live, love, and connect with others.
I have been trying to apply this principle of “I am enough” to my life, especially writing. This summer, I didn’t write very much, except a few query letters and blog articles. I didn’t do what my mentor Don Graves, told me to do, which was to “write every day if only for a few minutes. You will want to keep the thinking going. Just touching it will make it so.”
Writing in the middle of the mess of life is what I needed to do, but somehow I was waiting for the right moment to write. See how my thoughts trail off to self-criticism of my failure to write? This is the mindset that’s dangerous and counterproductive to writing. I need to think that perfect writing is overrated.
Writing and Perfection Are a Potent Mix
As Dr. Brown says, art and perfectionism don’t go well together. Research shows that perfectionism crushes creativity. So one way to avoid perfectionism is to start creating! Nicholas Wilton, an artist friend of Dr. Brown’s, said that some things, like an aircraft, bridge, or train, require perfection or they will not work. Other things, though, that don’t fit anywhere and are imperfectible, could be piled into a large, tattered box labeled ART and pushed behind the couch to come back to and figure out later.
According to Nicholas, the “box overflowed as more and more art piled up. I think the dilemma exists because art, among all the other tidy categories, most closely resembles what it is like to be human. To be alive. It is our nature to be imperfect. To have uncategorized feelings and emotions. To make or do things that don’t sometimes necessarily make sense. Art is all just perfectly imperfect.”
The Art Box
So when I don’t write for a while, or if what I am writing just doesn’t sound right or good enough, I am going to think about the tattered box behind the couch labeled ART, and give myself permission to be imperfect. Hopefully, if others think what I am up to is art, they too will release me from any expectation of perfection, and let me off the hook.
With this newfound perspective, I pledge to put all my imperfect items in a box and call it my art box. I actually started one many years ago, so I pulled the green box out again and placed it prominently on my messy bookshelf. I will try to write about something inside that box everyday, and create something from it that makes sense. It will be like starting school again, as my children have just done, and I will have the opportunity to grow as a person and as a writer. In the process, I will tell myself that I even though I am flawed, I am enough.
Encouraging My Children to Dare Greatly
I want to model the “I am enough” attitude for my children. My son just started his freshman year of college this fall, and I would like to instill in him the importance of making mistakes and rebounding
from them. The feeling of vulnerability is overwhelming when transitioning to a new school. But by being aware of that vulnerability, and understanding that we are all imperfect, I hope he will feel worthy and good enough to successfully navigate a brand new world.
I will tell him about my setbacks with writing and life, and share with him the good and the bad. I already wrote him a letter, which was delivered his first week of school, and told him about my own college struggles. I made the mistake of transferring to a different college because I thought I was unhappy, but then realized I was at the right college all along and transferred back! I told him it wasn’t the place so much, but the people and connections that were important. By telling him this story, I wanted him understand that self-doubt and uncertainty are universal feelings. I hope he finds the courage to walk into this new arena, and “dare greatly,” as Theodore Roosevelt once quoted and practiced in his lifetime.
As for my almost 16-year old daughter, she started her sophomore year of high school this fall. I think she observes my faults everyday as I burn dinner, forget to pick her up at the right time, and of course say the wrong thing in front of everybody! By admitting my mistakes, or laughing at them and saying “I will remember next time,” I hope my daughter learns the courage to accept her own limitations, and to go forth in spite of them.
September Resolution: Dare Greatly and Win the Book Giveaway
So this September with the beginning of a new school year and new writing adventures, this is my September resolution: Be perfectly imperfect!
And read Brené Brown’s book! Because this book resonated with me so much, I am going to try something new and give away Daring Greatly to one of my readers. And to make the drawing even more enticing, I am going to give away a signed copy of the book I’ve been published in called Autobiography Matters: Themes of Our Lives.
If you’d like to win these books, simply email me and let me know!
That will automatically enter you into the random drawing I’ll be doing at the end of the month to determine who wins. You have until midnight, Wednesday, September 30th, PST to enter. Contact me between now and then, and you’ll be entered. If you win the books, I’ll send you an email on October 1st. You have 48 hours to reply to me confirming your win! And I’ll announce your first name and last initial in my next blog! Dare greatly and enter now!