Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us, and I think you’re right that sometimes we expect to much out of each individual project we do. We see it as a testament to what we are and not what we might eventually become. This is something that I know I have struggled with forever — when is enough enough? When do you just call something “done” and move on? There always seems like there is more that can be done, but again that’s the trap.
When I was writing this post, I was reminded of a great quote by the American sculptor Robert Engman who said, “A piece of art is never a finished work. It answers a question which has been asked, and asks a new question.” So maybe the real issue is not so much when is a work finished, but when are we ready to answer the next question?
My mom gave me advice and told me to pretend like it’s Project Runway…
Pretend the canvas is the model and your the fashion designer.
You cant let the “model” go out on the runway half naked.
Don’t spend a month making only the top part of the dress.
Just make the basic dress and step back and add the details and accessories.
People would rather have the “model” clothed rather than half naked.
This actually helped me allot
I’m so guilty of waiting for the perfect moment – that ideal day when I have the perfect idea, the perfect size canvas waiting in my closet, the preliminary sketches and reasearch completed, and the whole day stretched out in front of me. Unfortunately that rarely happens, and when I find myself with only an hour or so when the kids go to bed early I feel frustrated and feed myself excuses as to why it’s not a good time. I’m tired . I have to do the dishes. It’s late and the light is terrible. If it can’t be great, I feel discouraged from doing it at all.
No one wants to create something that, in their mind, is total crap. I try to remind myself though, that the more half baked, ugly, or uninspired ideas I slog through, the better chance of stumbling on something really, really great. So just suck it up and put it out there.
I think most of us are guilty of waiting for that perfect situation or moment to do our best creative work and it becomes a comfortable excuse to keep from moving forward toward “done”. You’re also right about the “more half baked, ugly, or uninspired ideas [we] slog through, the better chance of stumbling on something really, really great.” We often hate to admit it, but greatness is often more of a numbers game than it is about having that one brilliant idea carried out to perfection. So instead as you say, we just have to “suck it up and put it out there” move on to the next thing and hope for the best :)
‘have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it’ Salvador Dali
that coming from a man whose technical ability was as near as damn it to perfect
You’re right Ashar, if we could only take Dali’s words to heart, perfectionism probably wouldn’t be a problem, but then again how often do we actually follow good advice ;)
Thanks for a good posting about a problem that afflicts many. I try to make a mistake early on in the painting, and once I feel that it’s “ruined” I’m able to paint freely, without worrying about the outcome. Then I can concentrate on the process (which is what I enjoy the most anyhow.)
I think that’s a great attitude to have Maggie. After all, why not get the “messing up” part out to the way so you can take the pressure off and just enjoy creating. Then again if you are actually able to turn off your nagging critical brain after the first screw-up, you are a far better person than me. If nothing else, the critical voice inside my head is persistent and doesn’t give up easily. The best I can hope for sometimes is to develop an uneasy truce where we simply ignore one another….
You may never reach the stars, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch your arms towards the sky.
Of course, the hardest step is the first one.
[…] The Paralysis of Perfectionism […]
[…] deeper understanding of how perfectionism can influence your creativity here is a good article from Skinny Artist to get you […]
“In the world of perfect there is no finish line”
I need that written on my forehead – the story of my life. :D
You and I both Laura, maybe we can get a 2 for 1 offer at the tattoo parlor ;)
[…] this after reading the line in a post on Skinny Artist, about the perils of trying to be […]
I struggle with this hugely and have recently decided that I need to change my attitude to kerb my perfectionism! It’s really hard to do, especially when you are still learning but ultimately if you want to become a better artist you need to be able to accept your mistakes and not let them hold you back.
A bit on my struggle with being a perfectionist..
Great post and thanks for describing my life ! I am a musician and I can relate strongly to your points here. I can record a song 100 times and still find the flaw (to me at least) that sends it straight to the rubbish bin. A lot of those for me has to do with comparing my results to other artists I admire, which I know intellectually is probably unhelpful but, even so, that little serpent whispers in my ear every time: “it’s not as good as so-and-so”. Strangely those doesn’t happen in live performance, it’s only when I sit and listen to my efforts. I’ve consigned I don’t know how many (expensive) recording sessions to the shredder because they didn’t meet my ideals.
Thanks for the wise and sane words in this post. Great stuff!
Thanks Graham for your kind words and also for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I think most of us creative types seem to be harsh self-critics, and now with the online world, it is harder than over not to compare your work with others. Unfortunately, it’s something that never really seems to go away. I think with enough time and experience, you eventually learn to ignore that little naggy voice inside your head that tells you that you’re completely wasting your life, but it’s still there waiting for you to pay attention to it. Hang in there and I wish you all the best!
Every great masterpiece must contain at least one flaw to be perfect because we are flawed. We are perfectly imperfect. Even Mozart had his horn fifths. To strive for perfection is to strive to be a machine. I was a terrible perfectionist until I studied classical composition. That was a leveler. I’m much easier on myself as a writer now.