“The Song is Never Done” was one of the first lessons I learned when I joined the music business and started working with artists. It was also my first encounter with the battle artists have – the desire to create “perfect art”…an irony in its own right.
Art will never be perfect. It’s not possible. Art is created from broken places by broken people who live in a broken world; it’s the answer to their brokenness. Art doesn’t have the capacity to be perfect. It’s created from the soul of imperfect humans, obviously disqualifying ourselves from the ability to create anything “perfect.” We have to embrace the fact that, try as we may, we will never be able to create anything perfect. That’s not just okay, it’s actually almost perfect.
Part of the beauty of art is the imperfection that wraps every note, idea, color, design, and possibility. The best art is an authentic and vulnerable expression of self out of an imperfect artist. When we apply a spiritual lens to this thought, it’s the imperfections in us – the artists – and the art we create that God uses to show His art of grace, mercy, love, and redemption
We often forget this powerful reality. We replace a holy imperfection with our effort to create something that is “perfect” in the eyes of men. We strive to please people, bosses, critics, or even the art itself. We get confused and begin to believe that our identity is found not in the Creator of creation, but in the creations themselves.
So, where do we find a balance? What is the difference between excellence and perfection? How do we avoid the dangerous and impossible trap of creating perfect art in an imperfect world?
The death of imperfection starts with the artist identifying where their value and identity exist. As creative people, we frequently lose sight of the truths about ourselves:
We will never be perfect.
We won’t always be right.
We won’t always be accepted – and neither will the stuff we create.
Our contributions are bigger than our products.
People love us for the soul of who we are, not the art that we make.
As artists, we’re primarily responsible for stewarding our gifts – not trying to make them perfect. This is the first step to finding a healthy balance of who we are and where we find our identity. Being a feeler, being creative, and having the ability to connect to emotions is a tremendous gift that we’ve been given. Making sure that our acceptance and affirmation come from a loving, perfect, heavenly father rather than a fickle, imperfect critic is vital. Without applying this filter, we’ll find ourselves without direction, purpose, or self-worth when our art is rejected.
As artists, we have to be aware of these traps. The busier our lives get, the more projects we face, the faster the days get, the more voices we start to hear, the better others’ work becomes all start to cloud our vision for what “excellent” looks like in our world.
The tension in anyone who creates is to always find ways to create our best art. Best doesn’t necessarily mean perfect, but it does mean excellent. Excellence is required. It’s part of the learning and growth process of any artist. The art you’re creating today, if you’re growing, is better than the art you made three years ago. That doesn’t mean that what you created three years ago was not your best work at that time, it just means you are growing and getting better. It also means you’re creating art that is closer to your “new excellent” as you refine your craft. Excellence is a value that can be felt, while perfection is a theory that is hard to quantify.
As long as we’re human, we will never truly be free from the traps of perfection. They’re going to slip into our scope all the time. It’s so important that we keep our antennas up and we’re watching for a drift towards an unhealthy obsession with perfection. The scary and costly way to avoid this drift is to continually create out of a place of authenticity and vulnerability. Put a piece of YOU into all your creations. It won’t be easy, it will hurt, and at times it will be rejected, thus creating more opportunity for you to be broken and recreate your next piece of art that is even more vulnerable and more real.
The only place you can be perfect is in the eyes of God. To him you’re already perfect, he created you that way. Take that truth and go create your absolute best art.