This is not a self-esteem blog. This is not about flattery or inflating your ego. This is not even about you.
It’s about your creative work.
Most artists are perfectionists. They develop and hone their art. They practice it over and over, trying to get it right. Even when it is perfect, they are often reluctant and bashful about sharing it. They are acutely aware of slight flaws, omissions or anything else that makes it less than ideal.
There are a few artists who have no problems with ego. They share their work at every opportunity. If this is you, let me warn you now: this blog is not for you.
This blog is for the rest of us. We are the ones who struggle with perfectionism. We are the incessant re-drafters and rehearsers, convinced our project is never quite up to scratch. We have difficulty sharing our work, not because we are precious about it (well, some of us are) but because it feels insufficiently refined.
In other words, we are not sure that it is good enough. Not yet.
For me, live performance has somewhat cured me of this. When you perform live, mistakes are bound to happen. They are expected. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are inevitable, but they are common. That means you have to be able to tolerate your own mistakes as a live performer. I have become proficient at acknowledging my live mistakes and accepting that I can do nothing to fix them. It’s done.
Some artists have the luxury of developing their craft in secret. It can be good to have a space in which to create and develop ideas without being critiqued. I think that having a secret creative space is quite important. So long as the creative work does not remain there.
Because that is a problem. It is a problem if you have a brilliant idea that has inspired you to actually do some work on it and then you never share it. Creativity was not meant to stay secret. Imagine if a Camelia tree flowered only at night. It is a thing of glorious beauty, but what good is it if no-one can enjoy it?
So here’s my trick. I have learned that perfectionism is helpful – to a point. The trick is realising when you have passed that point. Perfectionism is very helpful in the process of reviewing one’s work. Not so much in the initial creating, brainstorming stage. Also not too helpful in the final putting-it-out-there stage.
My trick is asking myself, “Is this good enough?” Not whether it is perfect. Not whether it will win awards or the loving admiration of thousands of fans. But whether it does what I wanted it to do.
If the answer is yes, it may have reached the point of good-enough. Anything further is tweaking. And we can only tweak so much before biting the bullet and sharing it with someone else. If we never reach the point of good-enough, we run the risk of keeping our brilliant ideas hidden. Worst-case scenario: the brilliant ideas will die with us.
And that would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
So if you are a creative person, working on a project or simply toying with an idea, let me encourage you to put it out there. Something. Anything. Perfect can wait. Get it good enough – and get it out there.
Does perfectionism get in the way of you sharing your creative ideas and efforts? What would be “good enough” for you? How can you begin to put your creative work out there?