Choosing Risk over Perfectionism

Cover of "Art & Fear: Observations On the...

Cover via Amazon

Last week I received a marvelous book from an online friend. The book is Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It’s a quick read but it’s already full of highlighted sections and dogeared pages.  As I prepare my next installment of Schumann’s Papillons for recording on Sunday, I’m starting to wonder if I made a big mistake by jumping into this project so unprepared. I haven’t even looked at this piece in almost 20 years and I don’t even remember if I ever had it polished and memorized. But it’s a piece I love and one I want to keep in my repertoire.

I came across this nugget in my reading to get me over this hump and back to the piano bench this morning.

To demand perfection is to deny your ordinary (and universal) humanity, as though you would be better off without it. Yet this humanity is the ultimate source of your work; your perfectionism denies you the very thing you need to get your work done. Getting on with your work requires a recognition that perfection itself is (paradoxically) a flawed concept….Such imperfections (or mistakes, if you’re feeling particularly depressed about them today) are your guides – valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides – to matters you need to reconsider or develop further. It is precisely this interaction between the ideal and the real that locks your art into the real world, and gives meaning to both.

And as I finished the book this morning – this:

In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot – and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice.

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