Is seeking perfection hindering your creativity and productivity?
Are you still seeking perfection? In your creative work, are you still working towards the perfect drawing, painting, book, song, or tune? While there is nothing wrong with trying to do something better than others, and give it your very best, perfection is on a whole another level.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good- Voltaire
Seeking perfection is one of the reasons we hold back from what we really want to do and the reason we experience self-doubt. We think once we perfect our art we can finally put it out there and it will be accepted.
First, no matter how ‘perfect’ you perceive your work to be, there will always be criticism. While this is not telling you to give mediocre output, waiting for your work to turn out perfect so that you can put it out there is being unfair to yourself, and your project as well.
Create more, produce more
In his book, Originals, Adam Grant proves that the most eminent creators produce a large amount of work, which is good but often considered as not so remarkable by critics.
He notes that the more content creatives such as Mozart, Bach, and Picasso created, the more chances they stood of having one or a few that is a hit.
This means that not all the content these great people made was great, some were great, some not so much. However, if they waited for their work to be perfect so they could put it out there, we probably have never heard of them till now.
If you think about it, we tend to know one or a few of a well-known person’s content and are often surprised to learn that they have more content that we don’t know about.
A lot of us know about I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou as her biography and we don’t know that she has 6 other biographies. Albert Einstein is known for his two papers that transformed how we view physics and yet he wrote many other papers with minimal impact.
‘……the most important thing you could do, is to do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work’ Ira Glass.
Not all your ideas will be mind-blowing
Very many people fail in creativity and fail to generate new ideas because they wait for perfection. They wait for that one idea that will blow everyone’s mind.
In fact, many artists, especially in music, are often surprised that in an album, the song that captured the attention of the masses had not been their favorite and they didn’t think it would be a hit.
If you are working on some ideas or art, stop waiting for perfection. Stop waiting to polish it so well with the intention of it being a masterpiece.
First, your opinion of how good something tends to be very different from the opinion of others.
Secondly, you will never know how good you are until your content reaches the intended audience.
Not everyone is your audience
Before I buy a book, I always check the ratings and as you can assume, I buy those with the highest ratings on Goodreads. While most of the books have lived to the ratings, some have utterly disappointed me that I wonder how they got rated so well. Does that mean the books are terrible? Probably not.
It means that my taste, and the taste of the next person, are very different. What appeals to me may be totally unappealing to the other person.
On the other hand, there are books that I have read and become surprised by how underrated they are. I tend to push them to other people hoping they would appreciate the book as much as I did, but they don’t.
How appealing a book is also depends on the timing. If they are in a phase where they need the message in the book, it will appeal to them and vice versa.
So while you are there seeking perfection and derailing your opportunity to give your best to this one project, there is someone who is waiting for the exact content you are making.
In the book Getting Things Done by David Allen, he gives an example of how James Patterson, the fiction writer, does constant shipping. He is constantly writing books, some great, some not so much, and it is in this kind of shipping that he appeals to different kinds of readers. I’ve loved some of his books, some not so much.
On the same note, Adam Grant in Originals advises that the more output you give, the more chances you stand in producing a masterpiece.
Simply put, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. However, if you spend all this time that you should have produced different pieces polishing on one ‘masterpiece’ which in your opinion is perfect, there is no guarantee that it’s going to be seen as perfect when you launch it out there.
If you are a creative or starting on the creative journey, and you’re feeling doubtful about the work you do, just get to it. Create and ship out. Don’t wait for your art to be perfect so that you can put it out there. The more you create, the better you get.
Creating more content is also a form of practice which can help you improve your craft. Out of the stuff you create, you may finally release your masterpiece. However, you will never know what your best work is if you hesitate to create because you are seeking perfection.