“I never promised you I would be a good writer. I just said I would be a writer. That’s all I have for you. I never said I would write good books. I just said I would write books. This book is as good as I can make it. I’m not going to go to grave with 75 pages of an unfinished novel in her desk drawer. This book is going to be finished at the level I can do it. And that’s all I have for you.” - Elizabeth Gilbert
Perfectionism is the enemy of art. I don’t know who said that. It just popped up in my mind this morning. Perfectionism is often seen as a virtue. But how often is it actually a curse? An obstacle to get anything finished or done? How often is perfection the excuse for delaying things you have been “working on but isn’t quite there yet”? If everyone was going for perfectionism the world would be rather empty and boring.
Is there anything such as perfection? And what lies beneath this aspiration for perfection?
Perfectionism can easily be mistaken for striving for excellence. Which isn’t bad. It comes from a place of love for yourself. When you want to make the best version of yourself without beating yourself up. Contrary, perfectionism comes with a believe that can be rather dangerous: I am not good enough.
What happens when we believe that? We fall into a circle of beating ourselves up, seeing only the flaws in our work, but does that make our work better. Maybe a little. Sometimes. Most of the time not. It increases, however, the pressure that you put on yourself. It causes stress. And these two, pressure and stress are really, really bad for creativity. They are like roadblocks that are suddenly in your way and you hit them full frontal. Ouch! Not good.
Creativity needs to flow. It needs the allowance or the option to make mistakes in order to discover and create something new. If you want to do things perfect right from the beginning, you’re bound to fail and we will be robbed from the creative gift you were about to make.
Perfectionism is really terrible. It has boycotted me so often over the years. I thought and to be honest I still catch myself thinking occasionally, until it isn’t like this or that I am too ashamed to share it. It’s not good enough. What I mean is: it isn’t perfect enough.
How about doing it as well as it is possible now? How about trusting yourself a bit more? I’m not talking about taking the first draft of a screenplay and just turning it to a film. A screenplay needs work before it’s ready. It needs more than a draft. It needs refinement. So does a novel or a painting. Sometimes the first shot hits all the right spots, but that is the exception to the rule.
How much more of my work could you have seen, read or heard? If only….
How easy is it to get lost in chewing on words and phrases until it is “perfect” until precious years have passed by that you could have used to create so much more?
How easily this can lead to losing all passion for the endeavour itself.
Over the last few years I have become a bit gentler to myself and I have learned to appreciate my creations more. I’ve also become braver to share my work. Some of my songs I wrote over 15 years ago and it was only this year that I started to share them on my patreon page. This little voice inside of me is still sceptical about that. But I can deal with it better. I’ve taken the leap and I think I rather share my work than let it rot away. Maybe it touches someone out there. And you know what? When I started to sing my own songs again at home during this lockdown, my older son suddenly started to sing one of them. He told me how much he loved that song. And he had no idea at that point that it was one of mine. If he’s the only one I was able to move with my song, this is enough for me now.
I want to close this video with another quote by Elizabeth Gilbert:
“This stubbornness to say that I’d rather have it to be done than to die on the cross of perfectionism is what made me able to write my first books. And now I don’t need to fight this battle anymore.” - Elizabeth Gilbert
Be creative. Be brave. And share your gift!
Lots of love,
P.S.: Here is the link to my song Desert Storm. Written in 2006... ;)
Romana Carén is an actress, film and theater maker (writer & director), and singing instructor sharing her experience with juggling all her creative interests, the struggle to feel that you have to decide to be good at one of them, to constantly feel the drive to learn more, learn something new and how this inner artist can be set free to express itself in a healthy and fruitful way.
THE VERSATILE ARTIST