Monday, April 06, 2015


For those of you who've taken a class with me, you'll know one of the working theories I espouse is boiled down to the acronym GELMO. I first encountered the concept in a strategic planning session where the poor consultant was trying to unify the disparate viewpoints and goals of six different but related groups: when the discourse broke down into shouting, or had reached a stalemate, she rang a bell and shouted GELMO and the room quieted down instantly.

GELMO stuck in my head (maybe visions of Elmo, maybe its effectiveness in shutting up some very opinionated artists) and it became a mantra for everything in my life, likely because it is the way I've always worked. It stands for Good Enough Let's Move On.  

Sounds like a cop out, right? A way to excuse shoddy work or shirk responsibility. But it's not, really. It's another way of saying "Don't sweat the small stuff" and gets the perfectionists of the world to stop worrying about (and wasting valuable creative time on) that little bit extra they always feel they need to go. 

I was proofreading my son's final essay on William Blake's "Tyger" and fell in love with the forging imagery again but, more importantly, felt Blake's powerful message about the creator and his relationship to his creation and how much we "dare" every time we create. Which reminded me of how quilt makers always make one small deviation in the pattern as an intentional "mistake" because they dare not approach perfection, which is God's realm. 

Which then led me to think about mistakes, which I call "happy accidents" or inspiration because they are just small roadblocks that engage your problem-solving brain and, in most cases, take you down a new creative path. Some of the best work often arises from mistakes. GELMO comes in handy here as you excuse yourself to move along. You can always park the idea or half-finished work and return to it later with fresh inspiration.

So that brings me back to GELMO and why I find it works, especially in classes where people are learning a new technique. If you are a "Type A" person, try letting go and GELMO yourself. Most things are 90% completed quite quickly, and trying to finesse the creation and get it that last 9 or 10% takes twice as long or more and usually ends up not worth it. Your first attempt is rarely your best. Take your time and inspiration on to the next project and enjoy the organic or artisan nature of what you've just created as well as the journey that is the act of creation. It's more satisfying that way. Trust me. Now it's time for me to GELMO today's blog. 

1 comment:

Sue Henry said...

Words to live by! I need to lighten up and GELMO!