Motivated by Imperfection

Motivation works like any type of fuel, where a small amount is enough for the initial part of any journey. However, fuel runs out fast through the distance between the first draft and the expected results. The more immersed you are in the process of that transition, the harder it is to keep track of the finish line; the problem is not in the process itself, but in the finish line that doesn’t stay still.

It’s easier to be patient through a 10-second countdown because we know the exact numbers that are separating us from zero. But when the countdown is from expectations to reality, the in-between is far less defined and measurable than numbers. But it often seems as infinite.

Creative projects often frame thoughts or ideas about a particular matter in a specific moment; unfinished projects are more likely to stay that way when the specific moment they belonged to has left it behind. On the other hand, finished projects, despite their flaws, manage to complete an idea that can be revisited. I have often found value in what I initially thought to be flaws.

A good example would be my painting projects, since most of them were left unfinished as they didn’t resemble what I expected. I did finish the portrait of an elder Indigenous woman; at the time I thought it looked good despite my failed attempts to paint realistic wrinkles and details. I found the painting six years later, and I realized that the only original thing about this oil painting was the oddly painted wrinkles; so I worked on the details with newly acquired techniques, and the result is the portrait that I’m currently most proud of.

Many projects are left unfinished because they could get as perfect as the finish line required them to be; but this only happens when we use “perfect” as the noun that our project will never deserve, instead of using it as a verb that guides us throughout the process. The trick is not in improving all the aspects of our work—no wonder motivation gets lost in that approach—but in recognizing which aspects don’t need to be improved. The balance in symmetry is as perfect as it is boring, while finding balance in the asymmetrical is a much more motivating challenge.