How to Overcome Perfectionism in Your Creative Life
When you hear the word "perfect" what comes to mind? How about as it relates to your creative life? Do you struggle in your process because you want everything to be perfect?
I get it! Many of my students ask how it is that I can create in such a messy and free style, covering things up when I don't like them and often moving forward with little worry of things not being perfect.
I tell them that I have not always been this way. I have dealt with perfectionism at times in various areas of my life, including creativity. It has lingered in the back of my mind over the years as I have developed my style.
It has taken time and intention, but I create more freely these days. This "letting go" has also extended to other areas of my life as well.
I think that as artists, whenever we sit down to create, it’s difficult to approach our work without a plan or a vision for the end result. We think about making things a specific way, or following a specific tutorial, or creating a piece that coordinates with a specific room… it’s hard to get away from that!
Like I said, this is something I’ve worked through over the years, and while I’m not “perfect” at being uninhibited and free, I do have a handful of strategies I hope will help you to let go (so that you can enjoy your creative practice a bit more):
Start by reminding yourself that art is subjective.
And with subjectivity there really is no perfect, right? To one, perfection might be a traditional oil portrait, to another it’s an embroidery sampler or an abstract screen print.
Knowing that there is no all-encompassing state of perfection and striving for it anyway is just silly. You’re setting yourself up for unfulfillment and frustration. Have you ever just walked away from a project because it wasn't your kind of perfect? How did you feel?
Abandon the “all or nothing” mindset
I often see artists with a lot of potential fall into the trap of saying things like “I can’t do xyz, I’m no good at that… so why bother?” I know I've taken classes, done one lesson and packed it up when it wasn't perfect or did not look just like the instructor's. I am sure they nailed it on the first try so there must be something wrong with us! Not!
There will always be things that you want to be able to do but that aren’t your forte… yet. But guess what - you never get good at anything if you don’t do the work.
Take me, for example. Faces have never been my “thing.” Give me funky florals and abstract grunge any day! Does that mean I avoid faces in my artwork? Of course not! I’ve played, I’ve dabbled and I’ve developed a style of faces that I enjoy.
It’s all about the progress you are making, so stop focusing on reaching perfect...you'll never get there. You are a work in progress and so is your art.
Rely on tools that take away your control.
Perfectionism is the control freak’s disease, so why not try using tools and techniques that take away a bit of that control?
Here are a few ideas to get you going:
Use torn scraps of paper and ephemera
Scrape paint with a key card or palette knife
Drip and splatter paint or ink
Add doodles with your non-dominant hand
Use a pipette or spray bottle to add color
Use your underpaper as a collage element
Get your journal out.
Art journaling is a brilliant way to fight that impulse to be perfect because it’s all about play and experimentation. And if you mess up? So what. Just turn the page and move on.
Remind yourself WHY you make art.
For most of us, that “why” is a calling or a lifelong love affair. Focus on that. Think about the joy you get from the act of creating something rather than obsessing about what your next project will or won’t look like. Tweet It!
I’d love to hear your stories around dealing with perfectionism - leave me a comment below!
Have a blessed day!