Article Art by Jeff Miller

The Death of Perfectionism

Posted by Stephen Brewster on May 01, 2012.

Author: Stephen Brewster

“The song is never done.”

That 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 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.

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 perfectionism starts with the artist identifying where their value and identity exist. As creative people, we frequently lose sight of these truths about ourselves:

We will never be perfect.

  • 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.

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 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 perfectionism. They’re going to slip into our scope all the time.  It’s so important that we keep our antennas up and watch for a drift toward 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. But that creates more opportunity for you to be broken and recreate your next piece of art that is even more vulnerable and more real.

God created us perfectly imperfect – full of opportunity to be embraced by His grace, mercy, and love. Take that truth and create your absolute best art. And destroy perfectionism.

About the Author

Stephen Brewster | T w
Creative Arts Pastor at Cross Point Community Church. Passionate about creativity, leadership, church and how those live together. Dad and husband.

8 Comments

  1. This is exactly what I needed to read at the perfect time. Thank you very much Stephen (and God!).

  2. Chris, WOW, so glad this connected for you. Sharing this was not easy.

    have a great day!

  3. “I find perfection to be almost really intimidating and BORING. And artists & producers who are creating digital art these days focus too much on perfection without vulnerability, beauty & humanity.” – Moby (from “Press Pause Play”)

    1. Could not agree more.

  4. God led me to this article today via several “tweet trackbacks,” and I’m so glad He did. LOVE THIS! I’ve been a worship pastor’s wife for 35 years…yes that is a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of change in church music and worship. All that to say, I feel blessed to be in this place on the Kingdom calendar. Already sent this to my husband and I pray it encourages him. (We had a big rehearsal last night for a program this coming Sunday night…and your writing today resonated with our conversations last night.)

    I have a quote over my desk that says “Be careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence you can reach for. Perfection is God’s business.” Amen!

    Thank you again!
    Jan

    1. Jan…that is so amazing. Glad it could encourage you guys. Thankful for your ministry!

  5. Thank you for a great post. I just shared it on my FB page. Even though geared to artists, it is truth for all.

  6. ah. perfect, man. “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. ” … yes, right!?

    so glad you shared this.


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