Memoirs of a Perfectionist

**For those of you who are not fascinated by reading about someone else's self-reflection and personal growth, feel free to skip down to the pictures. You've been warned;-)

I've been very grateful for the past 5 days. They have kept me busy, but not unmanageably so. Busy enough that I've been able to discover what it feels like to hit a groove, so to speak. While projects do come up on a regular basis, never before have I had 4 consecutive projects due on 4 consecutive days.

This week I've learned a lot about my own process by being able to repeat it several times over a short period. In this, I've discovered several patterns. The most notable of these patterns is what happens when I get too tired. Whether I'm piping details onto a nearly finished product or trying to reveal the unique character into which a pile of cake is destined to be shaped, I begin to second guess myself. I look at the cake and think, This looks terrible. I should have done this, that, or the other thing instead.

It used to be that whenever I would reach this stage in the process, I would panic and think, Do I have time to start over? The answer would always be, No. Then came question: Since I can't start over, what can I do to make it better? It forced me to be creative within the parameters of my given circumstances. I was training myself to solve the problems that were (in reality) merely hypothetical worst-case scenarios. Which is good in its own right, but it very stressful when it happens with Every. Single. Project.

Now that I am able to notice when this happens, whenever I get tired and start second-guessing the integrity of my work, I look away. Not necessarily because I'm sick of staring at what I'm working on, but because being creative takes energy and my brain needs a break.

So I make a cup of tea, take a restroom break, or check the Facebook page. And in the short time it takes to complete any of these tasks, my brain refreshes. I look back to the cake and think, Hey, this isn't so terrible-looking after all! My motivation renewed, I go back to work or (time permitting) go to sleep, knowing that it will look even better in the morning. Whether or not it looks exactly like I had originally planned, it still works.

Doing this 4 times in as many days has taught me to trust my artistic integrity. Learning how to trust myself has greatly reduced the amount of time I spend worrying over whether the client will approve of the finished product.

Creative flexibility is so important. I believe that you can be a perfectionist without driving yourself crazy, but you have to be willing to let your project be perfect for itself. Look at what you have and figure out how to do your best with it. Work with what works. If it doesn't work, don't fight it. Try something else. Fighting the cake/frosting/fondant/timeline when they are not on your side is what makes a perfectionist crazy. Do what you can with what you have within the time allotted. Make that the best it can be, and it will be your best work.

That being said, I present to you the last of my 4-cake streak! While I was carving this one, I was convinced that it looked more like a frog than a pig, even after making him pink and giving him a nose and a tail. There is always one specific detail about every cake that makes it finally come together. I never know what it's going to be, but once I see it, I am able to breathe again. Yes! It looks like a pig! This time, it was the ears.

Piggy Birthday Cake!
Contrary to jest, he is not bacon-flavored. He is chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream.

Piggy in a blanket? Nah, just a Birthday Banner.

Not sure where the anime inspired eyes came from, but they turned out looking pretty cute.

Now it's time to get crackin' on this week's Test Kitchen Mystery Box flavor!

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