Earlier this week, I wrote an article about how mothers should consider themselves “awesome moms” instead of “good moms.” It was an article essentially about changing the focus from striving to be perfect (and looking for all the places where we fall short) to remembering how awesome we might really be. If you are interested in reading the article, you can find it here. The article seemed to strike a chord with a number of my readers including quite a few people who weren’t mothers themselves.

Perfectionism in all it’s horrible, insidious forms is deadly to a creative spirit. Perfectionism isn’t a quest for better output, it’s a death sentence to creation. It’s the hiss in the back of your head that tells you you aren’t good enough, your creation isn’t good enough and will only be enough if you reach some mythical, unattainable and unspecified level. Perfectionism is fear in sheep’s clothing.

Here’s an old joke… A tourist walks up to a New Yorker and says “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” and the New Yorker responds “Practice, practice, practice.” Essentially that’s what all creativity is- repetition towards mastery. Practice is everything you do in every creative endeavor- and in any new endeavor period. Perhaps your practice level finally rises to such a high level that many people confuse it with perfection but you will always find ways to improve. And if you don’t? Then you are either in utter denial or you’ve lost the passion for what you are doing and it’s time to move on to something new.

Creative people judge themselves as harshly as mothers do. I see it all the time.  In my coaching practice, I spend hours listening and de-programming unbelievably creative people who try to tell me that they are different than everybody else and that what they do isn’t enough. I don’t know about you, but I would rather spend my time feeling like I am awesome instead of falling short all the time. Thankfully there is only one thing it takes to consider yourself creatively awesome:

  • You spend time doing creative things

Yup, that’s it. Really.

Now here is the tricky part. You are going to deny your awesomeness with statements like:

  • I don’t practice enough
  • I’m not disciplined enough
  • I’m too old to be good
  • I’m too young to be good
  • I don’t make any money at what I do
  • I have a “real” job to pay the bills
  • I’m not published
  • I don’t have a manager
  • I don’t play out enough
  • When I {write, paint, compose} it doesn’t {read, look, sound} like I want it to
  • People think I’m good at this but if they really knew who I was they would see I’m a fake
  • I must not be meant to do this because it’s so hard
  •  I spend all my free time watching tv/playing on the computer so clearly I don’t want it enough
  • I’m not nearly as good as {J.K Rowlings, Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Justice Ginsburg, etc.)
  • I’m not as good as the people who are creating around me
  • No one does anything like the way I do it
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Yeah. Don’t do that. Seriously.

Do you know they did a study of student musicians at a university to see if they could determine what traits were most likely to predict which students would become top-level professional musicians versus students who didn’t?  They discovered success (as they defined it) occurred based simply on the amount the students practiced. At that point and moving forward innate ability had  nearly nothing to do with projected success.

You are creative simply because you engage in creative acts. That’s it — and I don’t care if your creative act is welding a thirty foot sculpture or writing a tiny little note from the Tooth Fairy to your daughter. You are creative and you get more creative the more you practice. AND where you are right now is not just okay, it’s awesome.

It’s hard, because we love to find those places where we imagine we fall short. We do it all the time. We hold ourselves accountable for a level of perfection we would never dream of asking of anyone else in our lives. So, if practicing something is the way to get better at it, here’s your assignment to practice. And it’s a hard one, so you are going to have to do it over and over and over again. It’s your personal Carnegie Hall.

I want you to try and acknowledge who you ARE instead of what you do.

And who you are is AWESOME.

5 Comments

  1. Tooth fairy notes. Wow. I never gave myself any real creative credit for that…till now. I am a pretty cool tooth fairy, ya know. Thanks for writing this.

  2. Great piece Reg! Your thoughts resonate with me as an artist cum lawyer. I know too many lawyers who forget that law is much more art than science. Being an effective advocate means exercising your creativity constantly to find the best ways of winning for our clients. The best of us are those that constantly, as you say, practice, practice, practice our creative thought, and not those of us who simply research, research, research case law.

  3. Regina – great post! My friend Erik Beard steered me here, and I am glad he did! Loved your line, “Perfectionism is fear in sheep’s clothing”.

    You are so right about people being creative without knowing it. Just think what would happen if they DID know it? I guess that’s the point!

    Thanks!
    Matt

  4. Does sandwich artistry count, Regina? The post is great although I wonder how you managed to listen in on my inner monologue to get all those statements. I hope I can adopt your approach and acknowledge my creative abilities. Thanks!

  5. Regina – you are awesome. 🙂 Sharing this one too. Would love to speak with you sometime about writing a book. I think you’d take the depressing topic that I have in mind and make it sparkle. Message me on FB.

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