Perfectionism, Disappointment, And Learning Your Unique Creative Language

image: dancoachcreative

Have you ever felt disappointed with your ability to create?

Frustrated because the ideas and visions you have for a new project in your head, seem impossible to bring to physical form with any degree of accuracy?

When this happens (and it is a case of when this happens, not if) there are two elements we can consider that will help with, and lessen, that frustration.

1. Letting go of perfect ideas.

What we imagine in our minds is only going to be perfect at one time in one place ever. That is, when it’s there in our minds.

Without any of the barriers or obstacles of the outside world, we can polish our as yet unborn projects to a highly shimmering gloss. There is no limit to how wonderful and flawless we can make them. Because they are, at this point, entirely of our imagination.

Of course we all want to strive to make the most beautiful, expressive and interesting work we can.

But if we constantly expect what we create to exactly match what we imagined it to be, we will constantly be disappointed.

You can wrestle with this until it beats you into submission on the mat and you never create again.

Or, a better option, you can accept this fact.

When we do accept it, far from limiting what we can create, actually liberates us.

It means that if we resign ourselves to the fact that we can’t create to the precise specification we initially envision, we’re free to explore and experiment, to let the work become what it wants to be.

And it’s by exploring and experimenting that we discover new ways of creating that we hadn’t imagined, and couldn’t have imagined, and that stimulate further exciting new ideas and directions.

We allow for the possibility, indeed the probability, of happy accidents – those “mistakes” that turn out to be the best thing that’s happened to the whole project and give us a surge of new inspiration.

2. Learning your unique creative language.

When you first start creating, you’re a beginner.

That might sound like completely stating the obvious.

But how many times can you remember trying a new medium, a new technique, a new material, and being frustrated that you’re not as instantly competent and comfortable with it as you are with those you have years of experience with?

“But if I’m an artist, I’m supposed to be able to do this! Immediately, and brilliantly!”

Again, it’s likely this has happened many, many times.

Let’s take ourselves back to our earliest days of creating, when we were less than a couple of years old.

Were you born with the vocabulary and speaking and writing ability that you have today? Of course not.

Today your vocabulary might be tens of thousands of words. There was a time before that when it was just a hundred words. And a time when it was a single word. Maybe mummy or daddy or dinosaur.

As you grew, as you learned and as you experimented with language, your ability to express yourself grew, as did your vocabulary.

It had to happen in its own good time. However hard you try to teach a three month old baby how to talk, it won’t suddenly be engaging in polite conversation after dinner by the time it’s four months old.

With whichever media we choose to create in – whatever language we begin to learn to express ourselves – there is a learning process.

However much raw talent you have, you don’t begin as a complete expert.

It takes hours, and days, and weeks to start to find your voice, to build and become comfortable with your language.

Again, though at first this might seem disappointing, in the long term it’s very liberating.

It means that we know by giving our creativity the prominent place it deserves in our lives, and by showing up daily and practising, experimenting and exploring, we will become ever greater at what we do.

It gives us permission to embrace our creativity as a fundamental element of our lives, for the rest of our lives.

Not a little hobby we might pick up on a wet weekend now and again, but something that’s embedded in our thoughts and our actions and our days as deeply and essentially as breathing, eating and sleeping.

Let’s recap these two elements that can help us move from being a disappointed and frustrated artist, to one who’s excited and liberated.

First, let go of the perfect idea.

Accept that the only time your creative projects will be utterly perfect is when they’re in your head. Then get on and explore and experiment and enjoy what each new project brings and evolves into as you set about it.

Second, embrace learning your unique creative language.

Accept that becoming more eloquent, competent and expressive in what you create is a life long adventure. Commit to it daily, then enjoy how you, and your work, steadily evolves and improves.

What are your thoughts on perfect ideas and learning your creative language?

Come and join the conversation to let us know.


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