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Creative Imperfection Is Perfect

The following is an excerpt from my e-book short, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years.

Imperfection Is PerfectPerfectionists tend to experience a greater amount of creative resistance than those who are more easy-going. I don’t have scientific data to back up this observation, but reams of anecdotal observation tell me I’m right. Unwilling to sacrifice in any area where someone else is depending on them and unwilling to settle for less, perfectionist creatives often avoid creativity if they can’t have it on their own, ideal terms.

Research does show that perfectionists are more likely to experience burnout, stress, and even depression. If you tend toward perfectionism, you might benefit from trying to readjust that framework, if only in a few areas of your life. The bar may be too high on quality, and it may also be too high on quantity. Or you may be too conditional. For example, if you tell yourself that you can’t write, paint, or create unless you have X hours of uninterrupted solitude — after your house is clean and the laundry’s done — be prepared to wait. If you have children, be prepared to wait for a long time forever.

As time management and productivity guru David Allen puts it, “You can do anything. You just can’t do everything.” The good news is that you don’t have to move mountains or make big sacrifices in order to live a more creatively fulfilling life. Instead of beating yourself up for what you’re not doing, set the stage for success. Your success: feeling creatively satisfied with your ability to “make something” given the constraints and gifts that come with your particular situation. It’s the making part that matters.

Perfectionist standards indicate a focus on outcome, rather than process. Accept that practice is not about perfection. It’s about practice. Is there anything in life that we can knock out of the park on the first try, and thereafter never have to practice, ever? (If there is, please inform me immediately!) Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing. Chalk up those perfectionist voices to the brain noise that prevents us from doing. Forget about perfection. Instead, just do.

And if you end up with a garbage can or recycling bin full of “failures,” so much the better. That basketful of rejects is a lot more useful to your creative journey — and a lot more important to your well-being — than a basketful of nothing.

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More where this came from: If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Very intresting to read this. I am afraid I am guilty of this but realize and am working on letting it go.

    February 27, 2013
    • Awareness is the first — and perhaps the biggest — step, Alisha! 😀

      February 27, 2013
  2. Omg. I think I just read my life story! I never thought of myself as a perfectionist but clearly I am. Oh boy, framework adjustments must start soon! Thanks so much for the snippet.

    February 27, 2013
    • Delighted to hear that this piece resonated, sodaart! Come back and let us know how your adjustments go, won’t you?

      February 27, 2013
  3. This just echoes around in my head as a fight I’ve been having for the last several years. I can do everything, I just can’t do everything at once. That and Michael Hyatt’s advice quoting a Chinese proverb that says a man who chases 2 rabbits gets none. In other words, focus on getting something done rather than focusing your energy in too many directions.

    February 27, 2013
  4. This is exactly what I do. But no more! Things change tomorrow……

    February 27, 2013
    • Yay for fresh starts! Would love to hear about your changes, Cloves 😀

      February 27, 2013
  5. “Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing.” Brilliant. Thanks for that

    March 3, 2013
  6. I’m in Canada and I don’t know if our amazing writer Margaret Atwood is as well known in the US as she is here, but I met her once and asked her about this issue – how to get it done. She, too, agrees you can’t wait until you can block off “x hours” of freedom. She suggested I work “in the spaces” (I started my own blog by explaining this). It’s been life changing advice for me. Thanks for adding your own thoughts on this issue. If we can’t stay creative we are all going to go crackers!

    March 4, 2013

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  1. Confessions of a Perfectionist | Songbird Studio

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