Artists can be pretty intense. We feel things deeply. We are passionate about what we do, what we present to the world. We can get caught up in trying to achieve perfection: one more draft, a few more brush strokes or a dash more cumin. And often that ends up taking us too far. We don’t get a manuscript to our editor in time, we muddy the painting or the dish is ruined. There is a line between trying our best and grabbing at perfection. And when we get really close to that line, it’s often hard to see it until we’ve crossed it.
That line though, isn’t as thin as we’d like to imagine. In fact, I’d say that line is more like a brick wall we barrel through instead of keeping the big picture in mind. Perfection isn’t fun- it’s limiting and stressful. It’s the insane idea that if everything isn’t just so, if everything isn’t exactly as it should be, then we will fail — we will be rejected and all our hard work will be for nothing. Perfection focuses solely on results. Who cares about the journey? I do and you should too because that’s where the creativity and the fun reside.
A few years ago I signed up to take pottery classes. I am not a hands-on medium sort of artist so I took the class because I thought it would a great place to learn something different and get out of the house for a few hours a week. I learned all the techniques and I spent hours at the pottery wheel working clay. I studied what my more accomplished classmates were doing. I worked hard, practiced my art and ultimately, I made some spectacularly ugly pots.
They were too thick, to heavy, lopsided, uneven. The glaze was too thick or too thin or I matched up colors that should never be seen side by side. And I loved every minute of it. It was such an amazing realization for me that when I didn’t care if the results were perfect I could concentrate on having fun. Yes I wanted to get better, which I did over time, but I never worried about my pottery being perfect. That wasn’t the point. I was there to enjoy the ride.
The need to be perfect sucks all the fun out of creating. Creating is a process- whether it’s art or music or gardening or roller disco. Focus only on the result and you lose the essence of creating in the first place. And you’re bound to be disappointed. There is no perfect anything. Really.
So how do you know when you’ve crossed the border between giving it your all and perfectionism? It’s simple really—are you still having fun? Can you look at the project overall, proud of how far you’ve come and appreciate all your hard work? Or do you just see the flaws and the things you wish you’d done differently? Do you panic that it won’t be good enough, that you won’t be good enough? It’s one thing to want great results; it’s another thing entirely when that’s all you care about.
Work hard with your creativity. Create and take risks, push the boundaries of what you think you can accomplish and learn when it’s time to stop tweaking and adjusting. Worry less about the end result and more about the process. Have fun. If you aren’t having fun, what’s the point of being creative?