Having learnt (only relatively recently) to let go of my perfectionist streak, I recognise it fairly easily in others. I know all too well that feeling of beating myself up if something isn’t how I think it ‘should’ be. In my case, the drive for perfectionism still occasionally manifests itself as a bout of crippling procrastination. Then I have to fool myself into ‘just doing a draft’ or ‘just making some notes’ or if things are really bad, ‘just opening the book’. Once I’ve actually got something on paper, the gremlins give up without much of a fight.
By-passing perfectionism has been the key for me to get on with writing and painting. For years, I was attached to the outcome. My painting or story ‘had to’ be perfect. And so I stopped painting and writing, because it never was perfect. The moment I learned to just put pen or brush to paper without worrying about how it would turn out, was the moment that I started to enjoy the process.
The creation – be it a painting, piece of writing or whatever – is something that you bring from your unconscious into awareness in the process of creating it. Artists often say that the work they create seems to have a life of its own and they merely become the channel for the painting. This is what Shaun McNiff in his book “Trust the process – an artist’s guide to letting go” describes as ‘giving up ego control.’ He writes, “I can never know in advance what will appear, because I discover what is going on inside me through the process of painting.”
Thinking of a piece of writing, a piece of art or whatever you want to create as ‘just an experiment’ takes all the pressure off you. The results might surprise you.