"I have to constantly battle my perfectionist nature, especially if I want to grow as an artist."
Carrie Brummer is an artist, educator, learner and dreamer. Her big-hearted blog Artist Think, challenges us to find art in the small things and offers inspiration and support to live a more creatively abundant life. Her courageous entry for The V Project offers gentle insight into the life of the 'creative perfectionist' and also offers food for thought around why taking risks is so important for growth.
Worthlessness, lack of self-belief, perfectionism – there are many blocks that prevent us from leaning into vulnerability. How do you move past them? What do those blocks & blurts look like for you? What do you think we can do to make them less controlling/dominant?
Since I was a child I’ve had a huge desire and drive to please my parents… and then authority figures. I think life circumstances, combined with being an A type personality (yes they do exist in artists!), changed my desire to please others into a perfectionist attitude and mindset. Any sign of mistake or error meant I was a failure. And there are days even as an adult I still hear my inner voice saying that when I make a mistake on even the smallest of things. It took a special teacher (thank you Dr. Fuller, where ever you are) and the constant, neverending positive feedback of my mother to help me see whatever I do is worth it, even if it doesn’t garner me an “A plus.” I have to constantly battle my perfectionist nature, especially if I want to grow as an artist. I can hear that uber critical voice in my head all the time telling me I’m not doing enough, I’m not good enough. I distract myself from that evil inner voice by making art with music or a movie or smaller goals built into the process to positively reinforce my progress. As an art educator, I wanted most to encourage my students to explore and take risks because an art room is one of the only classroom environments that allows for it these days. And it reinforced for me the need to take risks myself. We are the model for younger people and it is in our actions that they learn the most.
I wish I could help protect others from a perfectionist mindset because it truly is destructive. DESTRUCTIVE! We often speak with pride when we say something like, “Oh, but I’m a perfectionist,” when that very state actively hinders our creative growth.
I wish I could encourage others to: 1) Allow teachers to move towards tasks that prove what students know, not what they don’t know. 2) Have loved ones reframe their expectations - is it about an A plus or about genuine learning? Which do you truly think will prepare young people for the uncertainties of adulthood? If there is anything I’ve learned in my only 30 something years, our entire life cannot be mapped out and is anything but certain. 3) BE A RISK-TAKER and make mistakes! It is an attitude of risk and “try try again” that breeds success and ingenuity. If we celebrate it in our schools and with our families, I can’t even begin to imagine the positive changes we would see in society.
Taking the first step to move and live “overseas (out of the USA)” was pretty scary. American culture and institutions (just look at how Americans are sometimes double-taxed as expats) does not encourage people to leave the US and there were many naysayers in my life discouraging from my choice. I knew I wanted to, but hearing others fears made me begin to doubt myself. I did it anyway and it has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve grown into a better person and artist for my journey and met and married my husband, as well as connected with life long friends. I’m not sure when I will go back to live in the US, there are so many places in this world to explore and share in their particular beauty! It has opened doors to parts of the art world I would never be a part of otherwise. And talk about fodder for creativity, I’m not sure anything else could inspire me as much as travel and exploring other parts of the world...
“Creativity is inspiration coupled with initiative. Acting on our creativity is an act of faith.” How much do you rely on ‘divine intervention’ to create? Do you feel you control your creativity or does your creativity control you?
My work is strongest when I leave that judging analytical space and just make. It’s that flow I think people often associate with divine intervention or a channeling kind of experience. And when I’m in that state, I do feel like I’m a channel for something/someone else, and this idea or concept is coming through me, not necessarily from me. I think that feeling is why the Romans believed humans were not sources of creativity but that were gifted innovation or ideas from the Gods. As Elizabeth Gilbert said, I find that idea appealing because it takes the pressure off that I place on myself to succeed (something important for a perfectionist mindset). Yet, I do want to feel some sense of ownership and pride in the work I create, of course it is mine... funny, that dichotomy. I want to continue to build trust in myself to allow for that play and curious exploration, which allows for those genius moments when we are lucky enough to have them. Yet, I also don’t believe we should sitting around waiting for the flow to happen. I believe it is through habits and practice we cultivate those divine moments and become a divine channel.
All above artwork by Carrie Brummer. Photo (left) by Bethany Edwards.