Perfectionism – Hindering Creativity and What to Do
Updated: Jul 8
I am a perfectionist. The funny thing about being a perfectionist is that nothing really ever is perfect; there is always room to improve, you think you can do better even if you tried your best, and there is the “comparison demon” that gets in the way. For me it often stops me from making art entirely or finishing something and showing others, and even selling my art. This also gets mixed in with fear of failure, fear of success, imposter syndrome and I am sure a myriad of other things.
This is my first blog post. I have been procrastinating on writing it and posting it. I have been thinking about what to write about, how much I should research, who will read it, will people read it, will they like it, does it matter and on and on. The answer is likely no one will read it, thus why does it matter if it is perfect? So I’ve decided good enough has to be enough sometimes.
I am a former project manager, I worked on websites and the like. No website went live and was perfect. We always found bugs later despite all the quality assurance and testing we did. We often changed images and layouts after too. We would add pages and different sections as time went on. Heck (who says heck these days, but I am wary of swearing, but maybe I shouldn’t be?), even sometimes we went live with things we flat out weren’t sure about. The thing is it was good enough. There was always the chance to fix it later, change things later. I sat on publishing my website for literal years, then one day I just published it. It has many issues; most people probably don’t even notice. But at least it is live now and I have something people can look at while I slowly in the background make changes and improvements. This is better than no website, this is better than saying, “yes I have lot of art, but no, there isn’t anywhere online where you can see it.” My website is far from perfect. It is a work in progress, much like everything in life.
Now perfectionism messes with my painting all the time. It is doing so right now. I have a vision for a series of paintings. I have the tools to begin and everything I need to start. I started, but I haven’t worked on it for over a week now. Why? I am afraid I will ruin the drawings once I start colouring. Do I have a track record of doing so? Nope. Do I usually like the things I draw and colour? Yes. And when it comes to painting, do I usually like what I paint? Yes. And if I don’t like it, then I can just keep painting. That is the joy of painting, I can paint over it. But yet I still put all this pressure on myself to make it perfect. I tell myself it needs to be perfect in order to sell it, to show it to others. Perfect doesn’t exist. We are all our own worst critics.
So what gets me out of this funk? A few things:
1. Making ugly art, going out of my way to just make something ugly. This makes it about the process and not about the outcome.
2. Looking at other peoples art. I know this may sound petty, but noticing the flaws, but also noticing that the flaws don’t ruin the art, if anything it sometimes makes the art better. I went to a Salvador Dali exhibition in Tokyo. I got to get in really close, and to my surprise, his lines were not perfectly straight, I noticed “mistakes”, but I didn’t lose respect or think less of his paintings. This made me like his work more and made me feel better about mine.
3. Working on my art in any fashion. This can be as small as getting my supplies ready, to making just one small mark on the canvas or paper. Often this turns into a full blown art session.
4. Do something that inspires me. For me it is nature and going to museums and galleries.
I could keep writing but I will leave it at that for my first blog post. Is this post perfect? No, but it is good enough. Until next time!