Creative Perfectionism shouldn’t exist
I reckon this may hit a nerve or two but read it until the end. Creative perfectionism is damaging, and you will soon understand why I titled this blog ‘Creative Perfectionism shouldn’t exit’.
When I started this business, everything had to be PERFECT. It’s in capitals because that is how important it was for everything to look perfect. What is perfection in all honesty? It’s just perception.
I knew how well I gift-wrapped, and I convinced myself that it’s not ‘perfect’ and I can always do better. I can’t tell you how many hours, days and even weeks I have wasted in this business because a product wasn’t perfect. It was fine, but I had that ‘perfection syndrome’ that many creatives have. We evaluate our own work and downgrade it because we believe it can and ‘should’ be better.
The fact is creations have no limitations therefore there isn’t an actual measure on it being perfect. Take a painting in a gallery for example. In some people’s eyes, it’s going to be absolutely beautiful, but in others it may mean nothing at all. I’ve seen some paintings that look like my 4-year-old could have done. However not all paintings interest me therefore I can never see the true beauty or the meaning behind some of them. The artist on the other hand has spent hours delivering a piece of art, that is in their eyes is ‘perfect’. My opinion on it shouldn’t sway the artist into feeling a lack of perfection, because my opinion is only valid in my eyes. So, perfection is really just perception because what one creative deems perfect is not what others see as perfect. All our standards vary and when I used to gift wrap, I raised my clients’ standards to be even higher than mine and this damaged my business and my mental health.
On the day I was due to have my 2nd daughter through a planned caesarean, I was gift wrapping until 3am. Why? Because the Christmas gifts for my family had to be perfectly wrapped. I lost valuable sleep and having 2 hours of sleep before giving birth was a very bad decision. However, at that moment in time, it was more important that I wrapped my gifts beautifully. They got ripped to shreds on Christmas day, so what did I really achieve? A few seconds of smiles which was great but was it worth the health compromise? I now know my family would have been fine with general wrapped gifts without the VIP treatment. It took me years to learn the lesson, which is why I am now writing this blog for my fellow creatives.
I am seeing too many businesses aiming for perfection which means they are losing valuable time in life. They create products and re-do them until they are burnt out all in the name of delivering perfection. I used to comment on many creatives’ posts saying how perfect something looked and the penny dropped for me when others started responding saying “if you thought it was perfect, then it must be”. Erm, no! I have zero power or influence over what is deemed perfect and soon after the penny dropped, I stopped using the word perfect or perfectionist.
When I look at creative pieces now, I look at how flawless the product is, how well the workmanship shows through, the attention to detail and use of colours and space. How about we measure a person’s talent by these standards instead. Another fellow gift wrapper recently posted a picture and the caption said she managed the perfect gift wrap for the birthday girl. She had done some pleating on it and added some ribbons. As a professional, I could see areas of improvement but, we as an audience don’t know if someone’s work is their 1st, 100th or 1000th attempt. If they say it’s perfect, it’s because they have worked immensely hard on it and in their eyes, achieved perfection. But in a professional’s eye, it may be an average piece of work, and therefore using the term perfect so loosely, is so dangerous. I gave this person some tips in a private DM, but it was sad to see that others took to the main screen to point out flaws. Creatives take criticism hard at times, as we have worked so hard on achieving a masterpiece.
I could name so many examples; graphic designers, paper artists, painters, resin modelling, the list goes on! The success is achieved through many varying factors, and it’s much easier to do when letting go of perfectionism. Each piece is unique and with each creation, practice helps make it better, not perfect! My gift wrapping tutorials are detailed for this very reason, it’s allows the pace to practice techniques and improve on them.
My own standards of perfection made life hard for me, I became a meticulous person, very organised but at the cost of my own health. I would rather lose sleep than deliver something that wasn’t perfect and now that I’m no longer a spring chicken, losing sleep isn’t an option. A wise friend once told me that version one is better than version none; To all the creative businesses out there, measure your success by how full the till is and not by chasing and achieving perfection. As your creations improve, your customer base will change too, and it is from experience that I will say that perfection is just perception.
I wish someone had explained creative perfectionism this deeply to me at first, perhaps I wouldn’t have wasted so much of my time chasing a bar that was always being raised by myself. I now gift wrap in my own unique way and if I make a mistake, I see it as an opportunity to learn from. I no longer call myself a perfectionist, I’m a professional in my field with a skill that shows detail. The next time you see something that wow’s you, try and use a different term to describe it other than perfect and see how many other factors are highlighted. Not just with creations, but with everyday life.
I hope you found this blog helpful and remember that perfection is perception, don’t lose sleep over it. Literally.