Perfectionism - Creativity’s Silent Killer

It’s fitting that the topic of this week’s post prevented me from writing last week’s post. I’m talking about the “p” word - perfectionism. Perfectionism leads to procrastination which leads to...eating a bowl of ice cream and never finishin...

Perfectionism is the pursuit of perfection. It’s the attempt to make something perfect, perfectly. It will kill your creativity. 

Perfectionism isn’t about developing skill, doing something well or being detailed oriented. Perfectionism is about anxiety, the kind of anxiety that makes you so afraid to make a mistake that you never try. Perfectionism paralyzes.

Make something ugly!

I went through a time when I was so afraid to paint terribly that I stopped painting at all. One day a revelation came -

I can’t paint any good paintings if I’m not painting.

From that day on I gave myself permission to make ugly paintings. And many, many ugly paintings later I have quite a collection of good paintings too. I often learn more from one ugly painting than five good paintings. Learning what doesn’t work or why something is unsuccessful points me toward more compelling work.

Confront the big white void

Sometimes I really hate white, especially when its the white of pure white paper or the white of a big white canvas. It’s so pure, so perfect, so...terrifying! 

Afraid to ruin a piece of lovely white paper? Take a black sharpie and draw a big across the entire thing. Now that your beautiful white paper has been marred anything you add will only make it better. 

Not sure what to write? Fill an entire page with anything that comes to mind, the more mundane the better! Write about your itchy toe, the dishes you don’t want to wash, about why perfect people are the worst...Often you’ll find that simply the act of writing helps ideas surface.

Dare to do something terribly! 

Do you have any personal tricks or tips for overcoming perfectionism? I’d love to hear from you!