I can’t tell you how many times I show up to a blank document and find myself already wishing for a final draft to magically appear. This is one of my biggest mental blocks when it comes to writing and my creative life. Just the sight of a blank page, and I am instantly in panic over the foreseeable rough draft: the run-on sentences, the bad grammar, the unformed thesis and my tendency to overuse the word “that”. It pains me to show up to a blank screen and more often than not I hate to admit, the blank screen wins. It taunts me with the lack of time I have to write and whispers the ugly message of perfectionism: if it’s not perfect the first time, then don’t bother. And so I don’t. What is most mystifying, is I am unsure of where this message comes from. I am not a perfectionist in my real life. I am totally happy with a B-grade, my house isn’t always picked up and dusted, I don’t beat myself up when I sleep in. I’m totally fine with not being perfect in so many areas but in the area of creativity, my perfectionism keeps me from actually being creative! So this blog is me preaching to myself and hopefully you will find something helpful for you as well.
Here are five ways I see perfectionism is blocking creativity and how to stop it.
Expecting your first draft to be your final draft.
This is a lie from the pit of hell! No one is going to write a final draft from the beginning, there will always be editing and tweaking along the way. I need to change my mindset to: good writing begins in the rough drafts. This doesn’t just pertain to writing, this can be applied to anything creative you are trying to do. The magic of creativity doesn’t happen in the finished product, it happens in the messy middle.
30 minutes isn’t good enough.
I don’t know about you but if I can’t block out a large chunk of time to pursue my creativity, it feels pointless. This is a ridiculous message and one of my worst enemies because ultimately, what happens when we don’t learn to be creative in the margins? Nothing. Absolutely, nothing. So instead of waiting for that four hour block to miraculously appear in your schedule, take that one hour you have and use it. Bonus tip: Don’t end early! If you gave yourself one hour, use the entire hour.
Grab another coffee, check Instagram, text your friend back… and other forms of procrastination.
Here, the biggest key to battle this form of perfectionism is to recognize that procrastination is a symptom of it. All those wasted minutes picking up your phone, refreshing your coffee, and tidying up your desk take away time from pursuing your creativity. Forget the coffee and the pristine desk. Set a timer, put your phone across the room and DO NOT MOVE from that spot until you are done.
You will never be (fill in the blank) so why bother?
Perfectionism is cruel because it mocks our dreams, having us believe we could never actualize our inner desires. It leaves us open to shame and fear which disqualifies us from the race before we even put our shoes on! Brene Brown says:
Perfectionism is not the same thing has striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.Brene Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection
Here is where we are to establish healthy boundaries around comparison with others content. Following other creatives and writers is good to a point but if it keeps you from showing up to your own work in fear it won’t be good enough, it is time to mute them and focus on your corner of creativity. Don’t let comparison keep the door open for shame to freely walk in. Shut the door (boundaries) and take flight!
Every piece needs to be great and on point.
Nope! Every piece of creativity counts. Every. Single. Piece. The good and the bad. I have written and will continue to write some pretty terrible blogs that will not resonate with a single soul. I need to write them anyway. I am going to lose focus, neglect great ideas, and wrestle with a lack of direction in my creativity. I need to create anyway. I am not always going to write about theology or faith, I am not always going to write memoir or bigger table theology pieces. Sometimes, I am just going to spit out a blog like this one because I haven’t published anything in months and I just need to creative something! I can feel the weight of perfectionism like a pair of cement shoes but I need to keep writing even if it’s bad. Every piece of creativity counts.
Well friends, I pray that was as therapeutic and cathartic for you as it was for me. I needed to get this off my chest and keep moving forward. Don’t let the voice of creativity get squashed under these ridiculous perfectionistic ideologies. Tell yourself a different story.