Perfection doesn’t breed creativity.
Raise your hand if you were raised by a parent who was a perfectionist. OK, now raise your hand if you had an older adult in your life sometime in your childhood who was a perfectionist: maybe a grandparent, a teacher, a coach, an aunt or uncle that you looked up to. What about in high school? Did anyone ever compare you to “Miss Perfect?” or did you do it yourself?
Most of us have been influenced by a perfectionist at some point in life, intentionally or unintentionally. As creatives, I believe that we are more prone to the influence of a perfectionist’s message (whether or not it was directed at us). Those messages can live on long periods of time in our memories. Sometimes longer than the person who gave us the message is alive. Sometimes forever.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Perfectionists are necessary. As Seth Godin pointed out in this recent blog post, we certainly want a perfectionist for a heart surgeon or managing compliance at a nuclear plant. He goes on to note though, that creatives have no business worrying about perfection.
“Perfect is the ideal defense mechanism, the work of Pressfield’s Resistance, the lizard brain giving you an out,” says Godin. “Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important).”
All of us are writers. All of us are creatives. The ones who write the (imperfect) books, the (imperfect) short stories and the (imperfect) poems are the ones brave enough to accept the challenge of imperfection … and maybe, hopefully laugh along the way.
J.P. Choquette writes imperfect mystery and suspense novels from her office in northwestern Vermont where she also enjoys walking in rain, snow or sunshine and eating chocolate in various forms.