Wabi-Sabi Perfectionism

“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best.
It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves.”


Hello Lovely Artists,   

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared anything with all of you - and now I’m so glad to be back! For most of this year, I’ve had my head down, hand-to-keyboard busy crafting my 1st book titled, The Crazybrave Songwriter: A Spiritually Courageous Approach to Creative Songwriting.

The journey of writing a book has been like all creative journeys: a twisty road of exhilaration, stoplights, and at times, emotional confusion. I found myself asking the typical OMG questions - Does my creative voice sound good enough here? Will anybody care to hear this message? Why is this book taking so long to write? Why is this so expensive?...You would think that I would be familiar with the creative process since I’ve written 100s of songs during my lifetime; but this book-writing thing presented a new challenge that admittedly has been a tough thing to manage.

New creative strides are risky, unpredictable, and exhilarating all at the same time.

All moaning aside, I’m happy to report now that the book is moving along nicely and should be officially launched at the top of 2018. I am so excited to reveal the excerpt below…especially for you.   

This book excerpt deals with the muck of creativity and game of artistic perfection. As I struggled to get my final draft completed this month, I kept reading and rereading my copy. Each time I would find a new word or phrase that could be said in a better way. The ugly arm of perfectionism started to creep its way into my spirit during those final hours…

[Excerpt from The Crazybrave Songwriter below]

There is a delightful term hailed from 14th century Japan called Wabi-Sabi. Centuries ago, as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, the concept of Wabi-Sabi was born. Roughly stated, the term Wabi has evolved into meaning rustic simplicity and an appreciation for the aesthetic of imperfection in physical things such as a homemade tea cup with irregular edges or a worn out red barn that has been in a family for years. The term Sabi refers to beauty in impermanence and gracefulness in aging. There is an inherent beauty for those things that are imperfect, old, and temporary. Author, Taro Gold, describes Wabi-Sabi as “the wisdom and beauty of imperfection.”

I’m reminded of the countless imperfections of the music recordings made in the ‘60s when there was no autotune or HD Pro Tools systems to pump out shimmering renditions of a vocal delivery or a drummer’s rhythmic flare. Listen to early Etta James, The Beatles, Nina Simone, or Creedence Clearwater Revival and notice the roughness and unsteady expressions in the unbalanced tracks. There is a great appreciation for the raw authenticity of these talented artists as we honor their contribution to the history of pop music. Now, when you pull out that turntable and play these old recordings, it feels as if these artists are performing in our living rooms, just for us, with the fullness of nostalgia and Wabi-Sabi imperfection that feels real.

The grace of Wabi-Sabi is a powerful way to keep artistic perfectionism at bay. If you are an artist that sets high performance standards and expects flawlessness in your art, then you might be suffering from feelings of artistic anxiety that masquerade as high standards. In the real world, this looks like...

Songs we hold on to just to see if we can make them better and better (even though we’ve been working on them for two years)

Rearranging perfect sounding vocals by running yet another pass in the studio

Failing to finish projects because we think they could be better.

The behavioral downside of creative perfectionism is that underneath, there is a pervasive sense of unworthiness that stops forward movement. There is nothing wrong with setting high artistic standards in general, but when they cause anxiety, then there is a need to reframe the experience if you want to strive for a sense of well-being.  One musician friend of mine does this by reminding himself that music is like playing in the sandbox. It’s his way of dealing with the idea of having to be artistically perfect all the time.  Another good way to reframe perfectionistic anxiety is to focus on completion rather than perfectionism. Thinking about the importance of finishing a project vs. re-hashing every little thing about a portion of that project gives our artistic selves some creative relief, helping to soothe the pressure of creative frustration.  

Focus on completion rather than perfectionism

Think of your Wabi-Sabi songs as beauty wrapped up in graceful, old antique paper and don’t let the songs that flow through you get caught in the churning cycle of perfectionistic shut down. Do your best to reframe your thinking so you can let your babies go, imperfections and all, so they can do the work they were meant to do.

If you are interested in getting more sneak peaks of the upcoming book, join my email list below!   

Lisa Arreguin