The Freedom of Ish

I already mentioned children’s book author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds and his blog The Stellar Cafe. In honor of his accepting me as a Facebook friend and responding to the note I sent him with my friend request, I would like to introduce you all to the freedom of Ish.

The DotIshSo Few of Me

The second book in what Reynolds calls “a creatrilogy” (along with The Dot and So Few of Me), Ish was the first of his books that I read. I stumbled on it quite accidentally. I was working part time as a Weekend Reference Librarian in my small hometown library, and saw the book on the Children’s Librarian’s desk. I was immediately attracted to the cover and the simple title. My dad likes to say ish. “I’ll be home around 6:00-ish.” It seemed like a suffix, three letters whose meaning depended on the word it finished. So I was curious about the idea that someone would take ish and create a whole book about it. Ish, as a concept.

I am so glad I picked up that book. It changed my life.

Reynolds calls Ish “a tribute to an approach to thinking – and relaxing — about your art, your writing, your craft. Your life.” The idea of ish is that perfection is subjective. Ish means that as long as you put your heart into something, that’s what is most important. Ramon loves to draw, but he is disheartened when his older brother makes fun of his pictures. Then his younger sister shows him that it doesn’t matter if his drawings are just right. It may not look like a tree, but it looks “tree-ish.”

This concept is amazing to me, but so true. Pablo Picasso is one of the greatest artists of all time, and he certainly didn’t gain fame for painting things realistically. My art teachers in elementary school used to say that there was no such thing as making a mistake. You just have to make it work, to borrow Tim Gunn’s idiom. Instead of crumpling up his art, Ramon learns to take pride in his work.

One of my personality traits as an Aries is a spirit of perfectionism. I wish I could never do anything wrong. That’s so stressful, not to mention impossible. But with Ish, I can release myself from perfection and just get creative. If I tried to do collage tarot cards before I’d read the book, I would have restarted the first card seventeen times, and then I would have given up. Instead it took me about five minutes, and I was able to smile at it and move on to the next card.

I do this a lot now. I live the power of Ish. I don’t need to be perfect. As long as my cards look Tarot-ish, I’m good. As long as my NaNoNovels are novel-ish, and my poetry is poem-ish (not worried to death like my college professor taught), and my doodles are doodle-ish, and… heck, as long as my blog is blog-ish! As long as I believe in Ish, I don’t have to be perfect. And that is the most free feeling in the world.

This entry was posted on September 20, 2009, in writing. Bookmark the permalink.