Creativity, Exhaustion & Perfectionism

Plush velvet pumpkins on a coral velvet chair in Pencil Shavings Studio's living room

Last week on the way to New York, I read Shauna Niequist’s new book Present over Perfect and it was all I could do to keep from standing up and giving a standing ovation right there on the plane. It’s about abandoning the false allure and societal pressure of perfection and giving in to the reality that we’re all deeply flawed. I ugly cried once and marked up the entire book underlining page after page. It’s SO GOOD – like sitting down with your wiser bestie who calmly and quietly encourages you that it’s all going to be ok. Couldn’t recommend it more.

I’m kind of starting to realize that clutter is the creativity killer. I don’t care if it’s actual crap or mental crap. Either way, it’s killing the creative vibes because I can’t see past all the STUFF to get the actual creative goodness happening.  Exhaustion also plays into this, as I know well after alllll the months of Archer not sleeping. How can I expect myself to create ANYTHING good in my life if I’m so tired I can’t see straight?

Last week I removed every single piece of clothing that either doesn’t fit me or is not fit for the upcoming colder weather and Internet, it was maybe the best thing I’ve ever done. (I also have the great closet breakdown to thank for that.) I feel so much less overwhelmed by (1) choosing what to wear each day (2) putting away my laundry and (3) feeling guilty about all the clothes that don’t fit. Everything else is in a closet upstairs to be dealt with at a later time while the stack of “Definitely Get Rid of This” is going to Goodwill and also to Poshmark.

As far as mental clutter, this feeling of mental overwhelm probably was a major element that drove me to close down my shop at the end of last year.  I love designing products, creating pretty things — but I didn’t love the overwhelm, loose strings, and mental clutter that came with the managing of the shop. It felt so good to simplify and slow down that I haven’t regretted the decision once. It was about Current Me looking at Future Me and saying “You know what, friend? You need a break, big time. Let’s do something about that.”

Sure, I was sad as it was the end of a (v. busy) season for me, but I’ve relished the chance to refocus and re-engage with the creative side of me that was getting lost in all the administrative duties that the shop required. Not to mention the fact that my family was bearing the brunt of all my stress in a thousand ways. I realized this past spring break that it was the first vacation in years that I’d gone on without having to freak out about not being immediately available to my customers.

I have high hopes that I’ll return to retail in some shape or form in the long run. But not today.

It’s a constant battle to say no — no to things I want to do that I don’t have time for, no to potentially good opportunities, no to people who ask you to do something and you don’t want to let everybody down.

And thus I’m in a season of accepting “good enough.” The dishes aren’t always done, but it’s good enough. A dirty sink isn’t the end of the world. Dinner isn’t necessarily something to write home about, but it’s good enough. (PS: An interesting side effect of this newfound freedom to say “It’s just dinner” is that suddenly I’ve felt so much more creative in the kitchen. I gave myself permission to not be perfect at it, and I’ve felt so much more excited to cook again). My body isn’t like it was pre-baby #2, but it’s good enough. I can buy new jeans to fit in the meantime (Lord have mercy).  There will be time enough for the doing of All The Things, but just maybe not in this particular season.

Ok, end of random stream of consciousness. Thanks for reading if you made it this far! 😉

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