The perils of perfection

Back at the beginning of the year, as part of my Creativity and Well-being Reading Project, I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a fun read, and although I rolled my eyes a bit at the quirky cuteness and the ‘aren’t I great’ tone of some of it, there was some really good food for thought. For all you tl:dr people, the message which resonated hugely with me, and that I’ve come back to again and again since finishing the book, is that doing art/creativity is too important to let fear of meeting an impossible standard get in your way.

done-is-better-than-good

Scary thought or what? Is done really better than good? Personally, driven by my unhealthy ingrained habit of perfectionism (aka ‘I must not fail’), I flinch at the thought… but take a minute, think about it. Here’s a bit more from Elizabeth Gilbert:

The great American novelist Robert Stone once joked that he possessed the two worst qualities imaginable in a writer: He was lazy, and he was a perfectionist. Indeed, those are the essential ingredients for torpor and misery, right there. If you want to live a contented creative life, you do not want to cultivate either one of those traits, trust me. What you want is to cultivate quite the opposite: You must learn how to become a deeply disciplined half-ass.

It starts by forgetting about perfect. We don’t have time for perfect. In any event, perfection is unachievable: It’s a myth and a trap and a hamster wheel that will run you to death.

We don’t have time for perfect.

Ever give up on a project and consign it to the UFO pile because you were afraid of the next thing that needs to be done or because you can’t make a decision about the next step (which fabric…what colour… what next…)?  I’ve done this so so many times. I have boxes full of the ‘what next’ projects, if you need the evidence.

When I’ve worked on magazine projects I’ve sometimes been paralysed by indecision – afraid I would make a misstep and ‘ruin’ a whole project. The good thing, of course, when you’re writing for a magazine, you have to do something! Reflecting on my completed magazine projects and those awful anxious times, as doing CBT demands of me, I realise that, you know what, they turned out pretty much ok – some of them I really love, and I’m really proud of all of them.

So yes. Done is good.

I can definitely be a deeply-disciplined half-ass. Recently, I’ve adopted that as my aim every morning that I go into the studio… it makes me smile and that weight of ‘it’s got to be good’ lifts from my shoulders.

Here are some more thoughts that whizz round my mind for future reflection…

What if perfectionism is just something to hide behind?

  • What if fear of not being good enough stops me even getting started?
  • Should the process of creating become more important to me than the finished creative work?
  • Does fear of failure prevent risk-taking?
  • Is an obsession with good or perfect an obstacle to learning new skills?

Feel free to join our the Very Berry Goodreads.com group for Creativity and Wellbeing – for reading ideas, reviews and a bit of discussion about stuff like this!

Mini-hoop tips and inspiration

So, I’m really excited about the mini-hoop swap! There are heaps of people signed up (the biggest swap I have ever run, I think) and there feels like there’s a real mini-hoop buzz going around! If I wasn’t having a duvet-day, feeling sorry for myself and full of cold I’d be rushing and leaping around in excitement..

If you want to get started buying your hoop and supplies, then today is the start of the 10% off offer at Cloud Craft – just use the code HOOPY10. This is valid until 8 February, so hurry along!

Cloud Craft

Here’s a direct link to the preferred hoop for the swap…

So, if you’ve not made a mini hoop before… Sonia, who invented the brilliant Dandelyne mini-hoop, has put together a really nice little tutorial on YouTube:

Top tip – you don’t necessarily need a glue gun – hi-tack glue is equally as effective for holding everything together.

But what to put into your hoop? Well, there’s all kinds of a different embroidery techniques, but there’s also patchwork and appliqué options – or maybe even crochet or weaving. Here are some of my favourites – I hope will give you lots of inspiration!

embroidered-mini-hoops-1
Clockwise from top left: Blackwork in purple by The Salty Stitchers; Monochrome mandala by High Stitch; Cross stitch heart by rubysewoh / Danielle MatthewsDNA cross stitch by Cute Cosy Crafts
patchwork-mini-hoops
From left to right: Foundation piecing by Love You Sew (Cristy); Tiny hexies by Willow and Trout Makerie (Kylie)
cute-felt-cats-by-lindsey-thompson
Cute felt cat appliqué by Lyndsey Thomas
cute-kawaii-book-by-wild-olive
Adorable kawaii book by Wild Olive
sweet-umbrella-girl-by-haruki
Sweet umbrella stitching by Haruki
butterfly-hoop-by-loopy-in-love
Butterfly hoop by Loopy in Love

Hope your brain is buzzing with creativity right now! Have fun with the swap… and don’t forget that 10% discount with HOOPY10 at Cloud Craft.

Recipe: Christmas spiced muffins with marzipan

christmas-spiced-muffins

My last Christmas recipe for you before I take a blogging break for the next few days. But it’s a real goodie, I promise, and so quick and easy to do. These Christmas-spiced muffins, scented with the warm flavours of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice and packed with the deliciously sweet chunks of marzipan and sharp fruitiness of currants, really hit the spot if you are a fan of a Christmas stollen but haven’t got round to making/buying one. They’re also brilliant if you love those rich spicy flavours of Christmas, but fancy something a bit lighter for festive breakfasts and coffee-time treats.

If you don’t have marzipan spare, or you don’t like marzipan (NO!) you can add more currants, or other dried fruit, or some almonds maybe, and up the sugar content to 75g. I have included a list of spices to add – but another option is to use a level teaspoon of a pre-mixed Speculaas spice mix, or a level teaspoon of the leftover spice mix from my recipe for speculaas cookies.

If you want to line the muffin tin with baking parchment rather than muffin cases – here’s how to do it.

delicious-christmas-spiced-muffins-with-marzipan

Spiced Christmas Muffins with Marzipan

Ingredients

  • 250g self raising wholemeal flour (you can use white flour if you prefer, or a mix of the two)
  • 50g butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • pinch of ground coriander
  • pinch of ground allspice
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g granulated sugar (75g if you aren’t using the marzipan)
  • 100g currants
  • 50-100g marzipan (whatever you have spare is fine), cut into small 1cm cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml buttermilk (or half and half plain milk and natural yogurt, or even just milk will do)
  • handful of flaked almonds for sprinkling (optional)

Method

  • Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5 or 190C (170C fan). Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases.
  • Rub the butter into the flour until you have a fine sandy mixture. You can do this by hand or machine, either is fine.
  • Stir in the baking powder, spices, sugar, currants and marzipan chunks.
  • Measure the buttermilk (or equivalent) into a jug and then beat in 2 eggs.
  • Add the liquid mixture to the flour and stir very gently until just combined. Don’t beat it, and don’t worry if it’s a bit lumpy – the key to a good light muffin is to stir as little as possible.
  • Fill the muffin cases, sprinkle with the flaked almonds and then bake for 25-30 minutes, until the muffins are firm to the touch and just lightly browned.
  • These are best eaten while fresh and warm from the oven. If you want to eat them for breakfast you can prepare the dry ingredients and the wet (keep the milk/egg mix in the fridge), and line the muffin tin the night before, then they only take about 30 minutes to get ready in the morning. They also freeze well and can be reheated after freezing by wrapping them in foil and putting them in a hot oven (Gas 7/220C (200C fan) for 5-7 minutes.

christmas-spiced-muffins-with-marzipan

Hope you enjoy these over the Christmas holidays! Have a wonderful time. 🙂