Do you think of ‘perfection’ as something “out there” that you have to strive towards? Is ‘perfection’ the ideal brush stroke, that perfectly worded phrase, or an infallible plan for a night on the town? Consider this: what if perfection is just knowing that you are painting at all, feeling like you are writing without a care in the world, or enjoying the company you keep during that night on the town? I’ve learned to see my perfectionism for what it really is: fear. It’s the fear of doing something ‘wrong.’
I was definitely a ‘perfectionist’ in my earlier years. There were times I wouldn’t even try things, because I was sure they wouldn’t come out the way I wanted them to look, or go how I guessed I wanted them to go. Lately, I’ve noticed something – I haven’t been painting. Sure, I’ve had to work on building this site, and my writing site, thewaveformexpressionist.net. That takes time, but not so much time that I couldn’t get in the studio a few hours, if I wanted to do so. Something else had to be holding me back. Fear.
When you are ‘out of the game’ for any length of time, your mind can start playing tricks on you. Maybe you think, “I was on a real creative high, but those things fizzle out eventually…” Or perhaps you look at something you made in that period, and start second-guessing yourself – the ‘quality’ of the work, the theme, whatever. Well, it’s time for us to get off our collective high-horses. Not everything you paint, or write, or sew, etc. is going to be an epic masterpiece.
Looking at your favorite band may offer a fresh point of view. When I get in creative ruts, I tend to turn to music. I enjoy a broad range of styles, so I’m open to exploring new works, or diving into ‘the back catalog.’ Think of your favorite performer/band. Can you name songs that you think are ‘so-so?’ Can you name any that you absolutely loathe? If the performer or group has been around a while, I’ll bet you could name an entire album you skip in your playlist. It’s also likely that many fellow die-hard fans of that band would agree with your selections. Still others would not.
The point is that you can never please everyone with your work. So you damn well better be making yourself happy. Maybe the band themselves don’t even like that song or album, but chances are they enjoyed getting lost in the process of making it. Should they find themselves looking back on that work with disdain, I’m sure they at least discovered something from the time recording it: a technical studio trick, twang to add to a chord, etc.
Embrace every new project as an opportunity to learn, and you free yourself from the burden of expectation and ‘performance anxiety.’ Creativity is the joy of that learning, expressed in your own personal style. There is no ‘wrong.’ So enjoy the process, and never doubt that you are creative. Swim in your thoughts, however deep or shallow, or ‘silly.’ You might find the results are, well, perfect.