Maybe it is because I just finished the explosion of creative inspiration that is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic but I am finding myself reflecting on a few of her points.
I seemed to connect with a few of Gilbert’s ideas and thoughts on creativity and creative living (which surprised me). The one in particular that had me yelling out in agreement as I finally understood that this is not just me who feels this way, is that perfectionism is creativity’s kryptonite.
Perfectionism is a trait that people often think of as a blessing. They put it on their resume and brag to people about their ability to not let go of something until it is ‘perfect’.
The problem with perfectionism when it comes to creativity and art however is that there is no definition of perfect. Perfectionism becomes something that is intrinsic. It is individual and subjective. It therefore becomes a hinderance as we can all too easily hold on too long to a project trying to make it perfect and never allow that project to be seen or shared.
When I was 16 I just wrote. Every thought I had came out on paper. Sometimes (most of the time) it was an incoherent stream of consciousness that flowed out of me, through my pen, on the the pages in front of me as fast as I could write. I didn’t care about the words being perfect, I just wrote. I did it because I needed to.
After university I stopped writing in lieu of finding a job that paid. I still wanted to be a writer but I figured I until I could find the perfect job that would pay me to do what I loved, then I might as well hold off. I was waiting for the universe to give me the perfect opportunity to write.
Present day me cannot believe how ridiculous this was and I wonder how much I held back. What ideas did I let go of because I didn’t think it was my perfect time to create.
When I finally realised that I didn’t need permission to do the thing I loved the most, that actually I could do it still while having a job that paid the bills, it felt like an enormous breakthrough. I had been waiting for the perfect moment to start, and in the end that perfect moment turned out to just be the moment I actually decided to start.
When I started writing my blog, I wrote posts for the sake of it. I wrote just to write and so I wrote about everything I could think about. Anything I thought I could squeeze an interesting story from. I didn’t care if the posts were perfect, I just kept writing.
I then got myself caught up in the Facebook groups and the insane amount of information online from self proclaimed ‘experts’ about what makes a successful blogger and realised my posts didn’t fit. I focused for too long on this idea of what I should be doing and soon I just stopped loving it. I found myself feeling conflicted between what came naturally to me and what I felt was expected and that was exhausting.
This is of course borderline lunacy because it was my blog. I could write however I wanted, about whatever I wanted. When I stopped thinking about being a perfect blogger and started to focus back on the enjoyment of writing I fell back into it, hard.
So many things I have just done, particularly when it comes to creating, rather than waiting until they are perfect. I prefer to just get them out. When I feel I am being a perfectionist, obsessing over a piece, I put it away. I distract myself with something else – most likely I bake. When I return and read through what I have done it is easier to identify what needs to change or more likely what doesn’t. With a fresh view I can identify that it was fine all along and it was just my mind determining that it was not yet perfect based of an imagined idea of what that actually would look like.
Once something is published, put out into the universe, no one worries that it may not be perfect in your eyes. No one actually cares. It is your creation, your art. People may not like it, they may love it, but this is not based on its level of perfection. There are so many other factors at play when someone connects to your your work. But if you never push past that need to be perfect then you will never know.
I am at the point where I just want to write. I publish things on my blog that I am not 100% happy with. But my inner need to write is stronger than my desire for my work to be perfect. At my core I actually don’t think I care if it is perfect or not. If people like it or not. I just want to write. So I do. Then I publish it, set it aside and move onto the next thing.
I cannot work on one thing for too long. The best things I have written are often during my morning transit to work (like this post actually). The words just need to be written so I sit there typing away on my phone. It will need editing later, but the important thing is to write while the idea is swirling around in my head. I have to capture those words before they are gone and I have moved onto something else.
If I worried about my writing being perfect I guarantee I would never publish anything. This blog just would not exist. The fact that I have a blog allows me to write, to publish my potentially imperfect stories before moving on to the next. It provides an outlet for my creativity and keeps it in a constant state of movement.
If you want to create, just do it. Seriously. Don’t worry about reaching that level of perfection. Just write, play, paint, do whatever you want. Get it out there into the universe then let it go and move onto the next thing. If my experience so far has taught me anything it is that experience and practice will make your creativity stronger. And that if you love something enough you do it because you have to. For me I have to get the words out of my head. I don’t choose to write, I just open my mind and allow it it happen.
If I let perfectionism take control then my insecurity would rear its (very) ugly head and I would never publish anything again because nothing I do is perfect. I can tell you with my greatest confidence that I am so much happier putting my imperfect words out into the universe that I was holding onto them waiting for that perfect time, or that perfect idea.
If you want to do anything, your perfect time is now. Just go for it and don’t let perfectionism kill your creativity. Let your creativity be your champion.