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Want to be a creative genius? Choose progress, not perfection

Emilia - 01/05/2019 - 0 comments

When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.

George Fisher

Inappropriate attention to detail may be killing your creativity. Many perfectionists have unrealistic expectations of themselves without knowing it. It destroys creative lives. Perfectionism takes away time, money, and resources. It’s an unattainable illusion. If you want to be the best at anything, you need to be the best at practicing and iterating more than anyone else and knowing when to let go. Perfection is an endless productivity loop. Anyone working in a creative field knows the relentless pursuit of perfection is time-consuming. The urge to get things just right never goes away. Strive to do your very best, but don’t aim for perfection.

The lack of perfection does not mean a lack of quality. Abandoning perfection doesn’t mean you should settle or make lazy excuses for your work. It’s great to have high creative standards and strive for excellence. But at any point in your creative process, you have to know when you’ve contributed enough to tip the scales close enough towards perfection without compromising the rest of your work.

Perfection is in the eye of the viewer

“Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important)” says Seth Godin. That urge to redo, revise, and re-edit your work until you get everything just right is what you should avoid. Second-guessing yourself and doubting by looking for the faults in your work will only make stalling worse. Perfectionism can prevent you from finishing your most important and meaningful work.

“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough? that we should try again.”

Julia Cameron

Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis. Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle. When do you stop working on something (because it’s good enough)? That is an important question you will face a lot of times on your creative journey. Great creative professionals are practical and know when their work is excellent and most importantly they know when to stop the unachievable pursuit of perfection. You’ve only got a finite amount of time and resources to invest in anything. It pays to allocate your limited time and resources on getting real work done.

Replace perfect with contentment. Perfection stops you from launching, shipping, releasing, hitting send or publishing your creative work because of a fear of failure. You fear your work is not good enough. You are afraid no one will buy it, use it, share it or recommend it. Give yourself permission to put your work out there without holding back. Once you stop trying to be perfect, you will be surprised at how much work you can actually get done. You will be a lot more productive and content with yourself. You will happier and more relaxed. Your approach to creative work will be different. No one is perfect. It’s about time you cut yourself some slack and focus on progress instead of perfection. Just be your best you. That’s all the world requires of you. You will make mistakes but that should not stop you from showing us your most authentic self.

True creative geniuses are always honing their crafts, looking to learn more, improve new releases or give a better performance. When you work towards continued improvement, you set yourself up for greatness. The key is not to make perfection your goal at the outset. This frees you to focus on getting something truly amazing done.

The article was written by Zemyna during the project “Navigators on creative seas”, co-funded through Erasmus+ Programme.