I have roughly 7 billion ideas floating around in my head at any given moment during the day. I plan medicine wheel herb gardens while grocery shopping. My brain designs acrylic brush stroked mandala masterpieces while I’m getting dressed in the morning. I mentally concoct mechanized duck-food dispensers from irrigation pipe while scrubbing the shower and yesterday, I basically dreamed up an entire makeshift root cellar for vegetables while painting our shutters out front. If I had a dollar and a minute for every creative idea which surfaces during my day, I might actually have enough money and time on my hands to make them all happen. Instead, I just keep pondering new possibilities and prioritizing my “to do” list in the hope that someday I’ll find a way to tackle every project that’s bouncing around in my busy brain.
A creative mind is a blessing and a curse, especially for someone like me. I’m caught between a love of simplicity and a smattering of swirling ideas and intense desires to create with unbridled chaos. Idea overload is typical for most creative people. However, in recent years I’ve come to realize that many of my artistic friends function among an explosion of partially completed projects lying around them in their studios or homes. Accepting the fact that some endeavors will likely never be completed, these folks just keep creating in spite of the half finished clay candelabras resting in the corner. I’ve simply not been able to relate.
I’ve always been reluctant to begin working on a project unless I feel confident that I can carve out a reasonable timeframe by which to finish the endeavor in its entirety. Plagued with little desire to create unless I’m working in a semi-organized workspace and unable to tap into my imagination if a partially painted canvas is staring at me, begging for color from across the room. I’ve limited my artistic abilities for many years. This ongoing desire for structure and my self-imposed time constraints have not only narrowed my ability to work on multiple projects at once, but also restricted my freedom of expression and my ability to grow as an artist and as a writer. This is unfortunate, but thankfully it is no longer the case.
About 10 months ago, my husband and I uprooted our children from the city and decided to move to the country. We sold our house and we purchased a small amount of acreage and began renovating a home on a little piece of property called Wildwood Acres. This move has drastically changed everything for me. It has altered my perception of time, broadened my creativity, redefined my notions of success and most importantly, it has loosened that self-imposed choke hold of perfection that has been strangling my ability to live and grow freely in my craft for many years.
I’m sharing this because I believe that although not everyone is an artist, a writer, or a lover of projects in general, almost everyone seems to have some form of a “to do” list that just keeps getting longer by the day. I know there must be others out there who are also frustrated, adding to your list, but sabotaging your ability to accomplish even the smallest tasks simply by refusing to change your perception of what success and accomplishment really mean. Maybe you are like me, creating fictitious barriers, limiting your accomplishments because of your own lack of personal flexibility. My burning desire to reach some self-imposed objective of “simplistic perfection” spilled over into every piece of my life and held me back immensely.
I can’t start on a new painting until I finish the canvas over in the corner.
I can’t read this book until I've finished reading the one I started last week.
I can’t get out the sewing machine until I finish learning how to crochet.
I can’t paint the studio until I decide where to hang all of my artwork.
I can’t begin writing my blog until I finish writing this short story.
I’ve been lugging around this warped idea of simplistic perfection for years. It’s laughable to me now as I’ve come to realize that anytime I insert the word “perfection” into a project or plan or piece of writing (or almost anything in my life for that matter) it immediately becomes everything but simple, and it’s almost always far from perfect. Our adventures here at Wildwood Acres have removed the word perfection from my vocabulary in a big way and replaced it with words like: “functional,” and “good enough”. I’ve quickly learned that if I wait around for the perfect weather to plant the garden, I’ll almost certainly run out of summer days for the blooms to fully come on the vine. I’ve learned that if I really want to make a couple blueberry pies for tonight’s dessert, then I can’t wait until I have finished baking bread, folding all of the laundry and balancing the checkbook to go grab a bushel of berries because I’ll simply run out of daylight. If we want our laying hens to be safe during the night, we can’t wait until we’ve saved up enough money to build the best, most picture perfect fence around the chicken coops. We have to get creative and improvise, find a way to fashion a make-shift enclosure with materials we already have on hand in the hopes that it might keep the critters out until we can afford something a little more functional and aesthetically pleasing.
I can walk away from things now. I can leave projects undone. I can go to bed and get a good night’s sleep, give my brain a break, get up early and pick up where I left off in the morning. I can get along fine, knowing that I’m juggling multiple projects and that many of them might hang around in an unfinished state of being for quite a while. One thing will take precedence over another thing. That’s okay. The partially stacked wood will still be stackable in three weeks if we decide to shift gears and work on planting gardens instead. And the matching glass beaded necklace and wristlet I started working on over the summer will still be lovely even if I wait to finish it over the winter months, when I have more time to spend inside.
In summation, I’ve learned that it’s okay to accomplish a lot and a little all in one day. It’s okay to spread projects out over time. It’s okay to be patient and even give up when things aren’t a priority anymore. It's okay if things aren't perfect. It’s wonderful to keep a tidy, simplistic space filled up with big, boisterous, messy and unfinished works of art. Living here at Wildwood Acres has broken down my creative walls and opened up my tolerance for halfway, half done, half minded possibilities. There’s always something to work on here, something to walk away from and something that takes precedence over something else. That’s what I love about this place, this life. Wildwood Acres is an imperfect work in progress all of the time. Such is my artistic brain, a head full of unfulfilled artistic desires, which want to be (and deserve to be) birthed into reality even if they sit idle in my studio, or partially finished in the back of a closet or wave proudly in completion to admiring fanfare.
My wish for all of you out there with a growing “to do” list hindered by stringent, self-imposed barriers of perceived perfection is to simply find a way to open yourself up to the chaos. Make an effort to embrace a new idea of success and sway freely between the beginning and the end, without expectations for precision, enjoying the dance along the way.
About the author: Kristin Mauer is a self-proclaimed yogini, gardening, chicken-keeping, artist, soccer mom who loves all things earthy. She and her husband, along with their teen, tween & toddler children recently decided to sell it all & ditch the city life to embark on their very own modern day homesteading adventure among the breathtaking beauty of the back bay country of Pungo, Virginia. Visit her blog to learn about their home at Wildwood Acres & to laugh along with them as they attempt to navigate this new life at http://yogimom2.wix.com/tealeaves