When creating myself, and when hearing about other artists creating, there are common themes and blocks that show up time and time again. Shared struggles that, although they’re slightly different in their fine detail, have enough similarities to make them worth discussing, and finding ways to overcome them.
Three of the most destructive and frequently appearing blocks all begin with the letter P.
So in this mini series of three posts, we’re going to look at each of the three, what they look like, and how you can protect yourself from attacks of these dangerous killer Ps.
Killer P number one – Perfectionism.
What it looks like: In simple terms, you expect that everything you create should be perfect in every way. Anything less than perfection means you’re disappointed in yourself, and feel inadequate as an artist. Over and over again.
Why it’s so destructive: Suffering from perfectionism once is bad enough but deeper damage occurs with repeated appearances. Each time you create and it’s not perfect (which, for all of us that are human, is every single time we create) it’s another harmful little blow to your confidence and artistic self esteem.
Those feelings of “I’m a failure”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not a proper artist”, “Why should I even bother starting when it’s not going to end up how I perfectly envision it” and a hundred and one others all become stronger and more insistent, every time you create something less than perfect.
In the end, it can get to the point where you only create projects that are safe, that you’ve done before, that you know you can do. Or, if perfectionism really gives you a thorough battering, you stop creating altogether.
How to beat it: Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome perfectionism. The crux of the problem is our expectation. When there’s a gap between our expectations and reality, there’s disappointment. We expect that, because we’re an artist, we should be able to create perfect work, right from the off.
This is a ridiculous expectation. It’s like saying because a new born baby is now in the world, has a mouth and a voice, it should be fluent in seven languages already.
We need time to evolve as artists, in the same way we need time to learn and evolve in anything else we do in life. No-one’s an overnight expert.
Another major problem that leads to crippling perfectionism, is that we are focused almost entirely on the end result, that product we manufacture at the end of the creative process. Of course this is part of being an artist, we make art. But it’s just one part, and if we focus entirely on the end, we lose out on everything else between that and where we began.
If you were going on a world cruise for 3 months, do you think you’d spend the whole time focused on nothing but that moment when you arrived home again with a glowing tan? Would you refuse to take part in any activities or explorations on the way, and be blind to all the glorious and exotic places you pass through and stop off at, because all you cared about was your final destination? Of course not, it would foolish to even book such a cruise if that was your attitude.
Yet we adopt exactly that attitude when we embark on a new creative adventure, if we focus only on what’s at the end.
Creativity is an adventure, and each new idea you explore is merely a starting point for that adventure. You don’t know where it will end, but if you have the attitude that you’re going to enjoy every moment along the way, you will. And you’ll be a far richer, far more experienced and far more accomplished artist because of it. Plus a much happier one too!
To recap, if you want to beat perfectionism, remember you’re human, and we learn as we go. We’re not born being able to do everything that we might later learn to do at some point in our lives. It’s the same with being an artist, let yourself evolve gently, be kind, be patient.
Second, enjoy your creativity, forget about the end point or the product and fully absorb every step along the way. If we can’t enjoy the moment you’re in right now, you won’t be able to enjoy anything.
Follow these two tips and you’ll go a long way to overcoming the first killer P – perfectionism.
The next in this mini series on the Killer Ps is about Procrastination. Read it here.
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