Passion takes inspiration and turns it into something you’re proud of.
Passion motivates you in the morning and fires you up when you are immersed in your work.
Passion is an unlikely breeding ground for a creative block.
However, as an artist, writer or musician, there is a fine line at the far end of the passionate spectrum that can lead you into the realms of ‘perfection’.
Whilst passion makes you care about your work, perfection can make you unhealthily obsessed about your work.
Striving for perfection can stop you from even starting a piece. Or make you so inflexible that you hold onto ideas with a vice-like grip and miss out on valuable opportunities.
As a creative person, you have probably experienced hints of perfectionism such as:
- Procrastinating over a project because you didn’t think you could bring the masterpiece in your head to life
- Refusing to work on any other idea until the one you have is finished
- Refusing to compromise on a collaborative project because you feel your ideas are better
Whilst it’s natural to feel passionate about your work and most of us can identify with at least one of the above, too much perfectionism can find you stuck in a rut with a growing list of people no longer wanting to work with you.
If you want to break the creative block of perfectionism, the following might help.
Image by peasap
Forget the ‘Next Big Thing’ and ‘One Shot’ Syndrome
It is easy to believe that creative stars and masterpieces arrive overnight. Suddenly the next greatest album, single, band artwork or novel is everywhere you go, launching an ‘unknown’ into the limelight. As a creative person in one of those fields it’s hard not to panic. Suddenly all the progress with your work doesn’t seem to amount to anything and you start to think…
If you could only emulate that big hit, then you too could ‘make it’.
It’s natural to feel like this. It’s difficult to fight the urge to compare yourself to another writer or artist, and it can be a healthy encouragement to keep working on your art. The danger is when instead of keeping up the momentum on all your creative projects, you become fixated on that ONE idea that you’re convinced is going to catapult you into the big time.
Initially you’re excited, but then you begin to obsessively tinker and tweak, far past the point you thought it would be ready. You convince yourself that if this idea doesn’t work, then nothing will, so best make sure it is perfect before launching into the world. After ten years of working on your project, you’re up to version 23 and still no one has seen it in case they run off with your idea.
This might seem an extreme example, but ask yourself, have you ever completed a project and then repeatedly refused to send it to a magazine or show people for feedback because “It’s not ready yet”?
You may have other reasons that prevent you from doing this, such as the fear of failure, but if it’s because you’re trying to compose the absolute perfect, ultimate version of your work that cannot be improved then you have been hit by the perfection bug.
The problem with this is that a creative piece of work is like filling a bucket with water. At some point, there is a stopping point before the more you put into it just overflows and becomes wasted. The contents might change, but it does not get infinitely better the longer you play with it.
You’re still being creative, your creative juices are still flowing, but your efforts become lost on that project, so…
Put Down Another Bucket
Creative success rarely stems from one big thing in isolation. They may appear to happen overnight, but they have usually emerged from years of hard work across many different projects, with some outright flops in there for good measure.
It might be less glamorous to work on smaller steps, but your odds of success improve if you are continue to work on a number of different avenues that act as an outlet for you passion. Working on a number of projects, as long as you’re not spreading yourself too thin, is a great way to learn more about your art, meet more people who can help you, try new media and hone your skills.
Hemingway was devastated when his wife lost the manuscript to his novel, and I’m certain there was more than an “oh dear” when she told him. But it didn’t end his career. The work was lost, but his ability and passion to write hadn’t been taken with it.
If you find yourself getting frustrated with one particular piece of work, remember the passion you have for your art and try working on something else. It might be just what you need to reinvigorate ideas for your original piece, or it might show you that there is a better project waiting for your creative input.
Learn When to Hang on and When to Let Go
Refusing to budge with your input on a creative project can make any form of collaboration a miserable experience. This might be with other artists, producers or editors. However, agreeing to go along with every suggestion even if you disagree can be just as damaging. You might be remembered as someone who is easy to get on with, but who has no stamp of identity when it comes to their work. It’s important to stand by your ideas, but recognise when to stand your ground and when to let go.
I’ve met fiction writers who would never let an editor change a single word in their story. They believe they are preserving the integrity of their work, and depending on the changes asked for, they may be. However, it’s worth remembering that fiction editors are just as passionate about the magazine and have a huge amount of respect and familiarity with their audience and what they like.
It might initially feel like a big compromise to have to change your work to have it accepted, but if it is a chance to build a relationship that could benefit your long term career, or a chance to reach a new base of people who might like your work then you may have think about what is more important: the individual piece, or the opportunities presented to you.
Nothing Is Final
It’s almost impossible to work on a piece until it is perfect. You will always see something you could have done differently, or added. So it helps to imagine a standard you want to reach which is below perfection. This might be ‘great enough to submit to a magazine’ or ‘great enough to send into the local radio’.
Once you reach that standard, just tell yourself you’re going to stop working on it for now and submit it, but if you absolutely want to, you can always come back to it at any time.
Because, unless you’re just creating for your own pleasure, the final piece of the process is getting it out there for people to enjoy.
What About You?
Has your work ever suffered from trying to make it perfect?
Do you have any other methods which help you resist the temptation for perfection?
About the Author: Amy Harrison runs Harrisonamy copywriting based in Brighton. You can find further creative contemplation and copy tips for entrepreneurs at her copywriting blog or find her on Twitter at @littleunred.