of perfectionism and other causes of creative paralysis


My husband says that I have become more creative since we married. I don’t think so, I say. All that’s actually happened is that I’ve stopped waiting for the perfect pitch before I swing at the ball. This has resulted in a lot more swinging. And some very creative strikeouts.

Many of my creative urges are literary. But when I read the offerings of people that can really write, the comparison game begins and I feel suddenly as though I’m shrinking into myself on the surface of my desk. My frame minimizes like a leaky balloon until I’m tiny. Too tiny to pick up a pencil, even with both arms. Way too tiny to push the laptop keys. Maybe if I was bigger I could do it . . .

What is it that prevents a creative thought from becoming a creative act? Okay, sometimes it’s the laundry. But I think often it’s the wet blanket of Perfectionism. If it’s not going to be truly excellent in every way we’d better not risk it. Because nobody denies that what we create is an expression of the self and an imperfect result would be exposing the imperfect self. We would so much prefer the big impressive effects as in The Wizard of Oz, hoping all will pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. If the product will not impress others adequately then we mustn’t make a creative effort. Better no painter at all than a bad one, we say. Go big or go home and by all means if you attempt it, you had better pull it off.

But is that really why we do something? Do we decorate and embellish and construct and write and sing and bake and plant and dance because we attempt–and expect to achieve–some ideal?

Effort is good: we should strive for excellence.

But there is a difference between diligence and perfectionism.

Some of the more uniquely talented people that I know struggle with this. Their problem is not the itchy trigger finger. It’s letting go at all. It can always be that little bit better . . . The word “finished” is so final, it means no more revisions.

Perhaps creativity (at least the human version) requires humility. How? In not having to have the results of my efforts reflect glory back on me.

I suppose the heart of the matter is why we’re doing it.

This entry was posted in Keep Calm and Carry On, Make Do and Mend. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to of perfectionism and other causes of creative paralysis

  1. Very true. Thanks for sharing, Betsy.

  2. Pingback: when life gives you oranges | part of the main

  3. Pingback: of the honest art of children | part of the main

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