The River: Messy and other thoughts by Chris Dunmire

This post is part of the River of Stones guest post series, our mindful writing challenge. Properly notice one thing each day, and write it down. Click here to find out more. Our guest post series features writers talking about the art of noticing, writing and more… 

Today we’re delighted to host Chris Dunmire

Chris writes: Perfect Messy and other thoughts

“I cannot draw well or write exceptionally, but I feel now so far beyond that perfectionist streak which would be flawless or nothing — now I go on in my happy-go-lucky way and make my little imperfect worlds in pen and on typewriter and share them with those I love.”
~ Sylvia Plath, Letters Home, March 13, 1956

SYLVIA PLATH WOULD LOVE THE WORD PROCESSOR. The cut-and-paste feature alone is worth three typewriters’ weight in gold.

A few weeks ago I did myself a huge service as a developing writer by checking out the restored edition of Plath’s Ariel from the library. This 2004 book, with a foreword by her daughter Frieda Hughes, is different from the 1965 version — it is “A Facsimile of Plath’s Manuscript, Reinstating Her Original Selection and Arrangement,” showing work-in-progress pieces with scored-out edits, penned-in additions, writes-and-rewrites, and above all, the comforting assurance to every new and seasoned writer that “messiness” is a natural part of the creative process.

Yes, messy is allowed — even encouraged — in bringing ‘the formless into form.’ Without allowing the untidy, unorganized, experimental, disorderly, mixed-up, disheveled, and imperfect stages of creativity and innovation, artists, writers, performers, engineers and inventors everywhere would be paralyzed with perfectionism and nothing would get done.

Can you imagine if Edison only had one shot at the light bulb? “This is your one and only chance to shine, Tom.” Yes, we’re grateful now to all those broken bulbs and shards of glass … and for the sweeping invention of brooms!

In Kaizen-Muse™ creativity coaching, messy is celebrated through the creativity principle of Spills, Muse of practice, process, and imperfection. Spills will be the first to say, “Let it be imperfect, messy, absurd, and insignificant.” To take more pressure off, she’ll add: “At the very beginning, the creative process requires lowered expectations, spiked with fun, in very tiny increments of time, in fractions of steps.”

Messy is not only a quality of creative output. It’s also something we might bring to our work to make it more rich and alive. Hughes wrote that her mother “Used every emotional experience as if it were a scrap of material that could be pieced together to make a wonderful dress: she wasted nothing of what she felt, and when in control of those tumultuous feelings she was able to focus and direct her incredible poetic energy to great effect.”

So as you continue through this River of Stones, appreciate the messy inherent in every piece of art and writing you experience along the way. Don’t be fooled by the good clean-up job I’ve done here…messy is ghosted behind the digital white-out of corrected spellings, reworked paragraphs, and deleted scenes.

*  *  *

Chris Dunmire is the founder of the award-winning Creativity Portal®, and with humor and compassion, coaches artists and writers through overwhelm, procrastination, perfectionism, and other blocks to their creativity. 

Connect with Chris through

Comments & replies

11 thoughts on “The River: Messy and other thoughts by Chris Dunmire

  1. Sue Mitchell

    Very excited to learn of the messy version of Ariel! What a wonderful opportunity to not only get insight into Plath’s process but to remind us all of the truth behind a great quote I found recently: “”The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steven Furtick

    Thanks for letting us know that this post is your highlight reel, Chris! It’s a wonderful post.

Comments are closed.