f you missed Part I of this post, you can read about how doing Project Life has been like going to the therapist. That hasn’t been the only unexpected effect of scrapbooking, though…I’ve also started to come to terms with my perfectionism.
You’ve probably seen this phrase before:
Originally a thought of Voltaire’s, it’s taken on various iterations on the internet and was mused upon in detail in Gretchen Ruben’s wonderful book The Happiness Project.
Every time I come across it, I nod in wise agreement. “Ah yes, how foolish of us to let the idea of perfection come between us and finishing a project. Done is better than perfect and undone. So obvious!” Then I smooth out my imaginary smoking jacket and take a puff from my imaginary cigar.
Here’s what I’m beginning to discover, though…it’s so easy for me to THINK I grasp a concept and am totally on board – but until I’ve been faced with it head on, it’s all just theory.
Voltaire was just theory to me until I undertook this challenge of catching up on a year’s worth of Project Life in a short month. (Full disclaimer: I have not made it through the woods yet. I’m currently on October. The quest will continue into the first week of March.)
I quickly realized that my perfectionist tendencies were NOT WELCOME at this Project Life party. I used to do layouts where absolutely everything looked right to me. No photo corner was left unrounded, no journaling card left unembellished. This took forever. Allow me to show you an example:
Notice how I had to cut all those photos down to fit in those pockets? And see the glittery stickers and the date stamp?
Look! Here are more glittery stickers AND the cutest paperclip you’ve ever seen, all contained in my very first Project Life album.
This method was do-able when I was on top of things and only had a couple pages to complete at each sitting. Now that I was faced with 12 months of layouts, though, it was a different story.
I decided to TRY to be a little faster. “I’ll just try it for a couple layouts,” I thought. “For kicks, I’ll go as fast as possible and throw caution to the wind. Nothing fancy, little to no embellishing. If it doesn’t look quite right then who cares? Just keep going! I am a Project Life warrior!”
Sometimes the photo quality wasn’t great (see the upper right hand picture):
JUST KEEP GOING!
Sometimes the card from the opposite side of the pocket peeked through…note the black and white stripes that are edging the middle photo of Bobby and me:
Shush, perfectionism! JUST KEEP GOING!
Sometimes all the photos didn’t totally go together. For example, when I visited my family in South Dakota this summer, I helped go through some paperwork and do some organizing. My sister Leah was building a tiny house. Those are two separate topics…in my first Project Life album, I would have stressed over how to make those into separate layouts so it made total sense when you’re flipping through. This time? Smoosh them into the same layout! JUST KEEP GOING!
And you know what? It was SO FREEING. There was no longer this internal pressure of making everything look just right. The main goal was getting things archived and having a relatively beautiful album to look through years from now. I started flying through layouts.
It’s not that I was oblivious to the imperfection – I actually couldn’t believe how many times my internal perfectionist chimed in and how many times I had to remind myself of my new mantra: done is better than perfect, done is better than perfect. It takes a lot to re-wire your brain…but it is possible.
Voltaire! I finally get it! I’m your biggest fan!
I’m sure I’ll face this monster of perfectionism many times in my life. But I’m glad to have had this experience – where I looked at that monster, shrugged my shoulders, and said “watch if you want, but I’m ignoring you right now.” May I suggest that you do the same this upcoming week?
Come on. Do it. Let’s be perfectly imperfect together and MAKE STUFF HAPPEN.
One of your best posts yet! This is a daily mantra of mine. I also think it goes well with Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming”…sometimes it’s just about getting it done and checked off the list. Then you can ways go back and embellish later:) love you Grace!!!!
Aw, Carolyn, what a treat to hear from you – and such a sweet comment! Thank you! Do you feel like teaching has helped solidify your mantra?! I was TOTALLY thinking of teaching when I wrote this and how that’s such a necessary thing to embrace – every handout or craft activity or anchor chart can’t be perfect, but if it gets the job done, it’s probably good enough (and the extra sleep you’re able to get will be a bigger classroom boost, anyways! :) YES, just keep swimming! xoxo
Beautiful! Beautiful spreads, messages, and watercolors. I always need to be reminded of that one. All too often, I let things lapse for much too long because I’m afraid of my inability to carry them out to the perfections of my initial daydreams and fantasies. But it’s so satisfying to bring things into reality and share them with others, and sometimes, you get those special moments where you get to see your creation through someone else’s eyes, and to them, it is perfect!
I was reminded of this the other day when I celebrated a friend’s birthday by making beignets, cafe au laits, and sticking a candle in one of the beignets. Right in the moment, as I sang “Happy Birthday” I was thinking about how much better I could have made it, how I could have had balloons or a better card or ukulele accompaniment, and I felt so lame I had only done such a small thing, but later, she told me she hadn’t had someone celebrate her birthday with a candle, a wish, and a song in a long, long time. To her, it was the perfect moment. And while I still see the imperfections, I can also see it through her eyes and appreciate the things I wasn’t willing to earlier.
So, let me say, that in seeing the Project Life spreads you’ve made this month. They are perfection! To me, they look stunning and are a brilliant capture of your colorful, inspirational life. :)
Aw, Celeste, that’s the NICEST! Thank you for letting me see the spreads through your eyes! I hope you’ll get to flip through them in person someday. :)
Thanks so much for sharing the beautiful story about celebrating your friend’s birthday and the inner critiques you were having – it almost had me tearing up when you wrote about how perfect a moment it was for her. I think it speaks to 1) your sincerity and how beautifully that comes across and 2) how people need to be celebrated way more often – it happens so little! I’m glad you were able to reach out and spread some of that love and appreciation to her. It’s such a gift just to be thought of!
I read this right before attempting to make my wedding album through the computer. You’re right, SO DIFFICULT to rewire that brain. I got a little frustrated in my attempts and decided to save it for another day with a fresh approach. For me, the trickiest part in the album making are all the choices, page by page. Which photos?! Layouts? Perfectionism totally SUCKS JOY out of any project. Love this! Thank you ;)
I hear you, Michelle! It gets even harder when you’re doing an album for such a glorious, life changing event! Don’t know if this would translate to the online album you’re doing…but what I found helpful with this year for PL was just deciding to roughly do the same type of layout for nearly every page. Same color schemes with the journal cards instead of getting fancy. It took a lot of the brain work out of it, which has been SO NICE! I know that whatever you put together will be gorgeous – I hope I get to see it someday! xoxo