At the beginning of 2017, my objective was to get four books, plus the Georgia Pattison Christmas novella published during the 12 month period. My reward would be taking the summer off.
I managed 3 books before the middle of May just before our holiday to Rhodes, which was enjoyable even though I spent the first three days asleep. When we returned, I began to plan my much-needed summer break. I would re-connect with stitching, painting and the piano.
And then I came up against myself. The pedantic perfectionist. It has taken me until almost the end of June to realise I am my own worst enemy and what I need to do about it.
Ash Buckingham is a Lincolnshire artist with a studio a few miles from where I live. A conversation with him this week highlighted my self-defeating behaviour.
‘Painting a picture is nothing to do with reproducing a photograph,’ he said. ‘If it was, you would use a camera. Painting is about enjoying the process, being free. You need to free yourself up.’
When I asked advice about painting from a photograph – what to leave out, how to simplify it – his reply was simple. ‘Take out what you don’t like and can’t paint and see what’s left.’ He made me think, really think.
I get so frustrated when I can’t play the piano as well as I used to. But then, when did I last get on it for any period longer than 10 minutes and really work at it? Years ago. I used to practise every day. I was never anywhere near perfection, but I wasn’t that bad, either. Because I used to practise every day. I’ve repeated that sentence deliberately.
It’s the same with writing, painting, playing instruments, singing and whatever else you want to do well. Practise won’t make you perfect because nothing, absolutely nothing, is ever perfect. But practise will create a habit and that habit will bring improvement. There is a character in The Plague by Albert Camus. He is writing a book. What he is actually doing is trying to write a perfect sentence. Unsurprisingly, the book never gets any further.
It’s the same with writing. If you don’t write something, you can’t edit it. If you can’t edit it, you can’t make it as good as you are able. So, I say don’t go for perfect because you’ll never get there. But do practise. Every day. And, though you won’t produce perfection, you will gain what we all strive for, contentment, satisfaction and having fun on the way.
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