Artists Beware: 3 Dangers of Perfectionism

by David Finley

 My wife and I were conversing recently about the new path I was taking as a full time freelance artist. I filled her ear with how happy I was to be making art again, and how free I felt from the life we had been living just months before. 
 Eventually, the conversation progressed to the status of my online store, where I planned to sell prints and originals of my art. This wasn't the first time we had discussed the matter. So, I explained how I was making new art and as soon as I had a body of work I was happy with, my online shop would be born. For some reason my response didn't make sense to her. Why not open my store now with the work I already have and add better work as I go along?

 She was right. I had let perfectionism almost stop me from taking an important step toward my goals.
 So, my own battle with perfectionism came to my attention. It is something I was mildly aware of before, knowing even in my younger years I was my own worst critic. However, I never considered what perfectionism might be costing me as an artist and a creative professional.

 There is a bit of illusion perfectionism throws our way. It masquerades as quality control and encourages excellence. Because, while it keeps our standards escalating ever higher, perfectionism is the summit of a mountain we can never truly climb.

3 Dangers of Perfectionism

1. Perfectionism Will Cause You to Procrastinate

 As I said before, I wanted to have a perfect portfolio of all new work before I opened my shop online. Yet, if I had waited for my dream portfolio, I would have missed out on the prints I have sold since I opened my shop.

 It's not just my online shop either. There are so many shows, companies, and galleries that I have neglected sending my work to because I wanted things to be perfect first. That's not lazy, but it is a form of procrastination.

2. Perfectionism Will Lead to Frustration and Depression

As artists, we thrive on the melancholy. We love to stare at our own work, mentally dissecting and breaking it down. But, it is a dangerous preoccupation that can hinder your personal well being if left unchecked. 

 Perfectionism can spread to all areas of our life and rob of us our daily joy. As we sit and compare our lives and our work to others who seem far more successful, the depression only grows worse because we will never be as perfect as the ideals we see in other people.

3. Perfectionism Can Cause you to Miss Out on your Dreams

 I listened to an NPR interview with Paul McCartney recently where he was asked about the infancy of the Beatles, their musical influences, and what obstacles they faced writing songs like their favorite performers. He responded by saying he and the other Beatles didn't really consider the possibility they would never be able write songs exactly like their greatest inspirations. Mainly, they were enthusiastic about making music of their own that they liked, and worked vigorously to make it.

 Had they stopped to think about it more, it would have decreased their output dramatically.  Perfectionism might have kept one of the greatest bands in history from ever happening.

A Perfectionist No More... Well, Mostly

 Realizing how big a problem perfectionism can be has really helped me as an artist.  It is better to do than to have the perfect plan.

 Perfectionism has its place. There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence. There is nothing wrong with planning. Just don't allow it to stop you from doing what you love the most.

Thanks for reading, Scofflaws!


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