There’s this one ‘wrong’ square in our bathroom tile. The two white rectangles go horizontally instead of vertically. It took me a few years to notice. Then I kind of forgot about it. But I’ve looked at it a lot in these sheltering at home days. Is it a mistake? Did the tile guy do it on purpose? Its on the right near the wall. On the edge. Like the Navajo ‘spirit line’. The on purpose mistakes of Navajo weavings. I’m no expert on Navajo art but I think about this one thing a lot. The idea as I understand it, is these spirit lines let the weaver’s spirit exit. I love the idea that the artists spirit enters the work. But also these lines are crafted to let the viewers’ spirit enter. As I understand it. Spirit is in everything. That much I do know.
And part of what that means to me, as an intimate with the creative process, is that the quest for perfection is a spirit deadener. Perfectionism is to be avoided. It results procrastination and anxiety. Is the enemy of the creative process. Of life.
My own epiphany in this area came one afternoon as the perfect light glowed up the corner of Fairfax and Melrose. I was waiting at the red light. Irritable about some imperfect part of my life. As I people watched the high school kids and the Hassidic men head towards their next departs it suddenly hit me. That maybe this thing that was so bothersome was perfect. I literally said to myslef maybe this is perfect. Do you know what perfect is? Maybe this is it. It was like the golden hour light had entered my soul. Somehow admitting I don’t know, surrender to maybe, gives me a way to be in acceptance and willing rather than willful. Gives me a way to make room for spirit to enter.
In the creative process, as we make first drafts and then refinement we somehow have to find ways to let mistakes happen. Mistakes are sometimes genius. The ad lib that fixes the script problem. And sometimes mistakes are place holders for the better thing. And then sometimes they are just humbling.
One way to look at it? My friend Alan Zweibel once told me that a first draft is just something to put a coffee ring on. A very appealing different take on ‘put a ring on it’.
Creativity means to grow. All of the creative journey is about growth. Not about making things. There is spirit in growth. All growth. And ‘mistakes’ are like opportunities for growth spurts. Trees are a great model. The knots. The most interesting part of any plank of wood. That’s where the tree had an infection. And grew around it. Protecting itself. Where the tree was mistaken.
Mistakes are the things that disrupt the persistent linear path. Creativity is not linear. We expect it to all make sense. Unfold logically. Like a career in banking. You may not know why you are moved to do the work you are doing during this exceptional phase. Trust. It may feel like a mistake but maybe its a breakthrough. Keep going. Learn to trust your gut. Be willing to make mistakes. Make them on purpose sometimes. They are surprising and delightful and full of spirit.
And finally – is this whole pandemic – it seems like a mistake on the surface – some sort of spirit line in the great artwork of planet earth?
Keep on keeping on. For now…
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