Perfectionism kills creativity. It killed mine, off and on throughout art school, and then this disease lingered on until I created no more for over seven years straight. Perfectionism is, for me, an innate tendency. Maybe it’s the Virgo in me? But then I learned that it’s not about quality, it’s about quantity. Yes, you heard me right. Art is not about quality, it’s all about quantity.
Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates this point in his book “Outliers, the Story of Success” where he talks about the 10,000-hour rule. It was only after logging 10,000 hours that The Beatles, Bill Gates, and Mozart found their stride. I don’t think that they were paining over every minute they logged. And that’s what perfectionism is, it’s paining over every decision, over editing, or constant second guessing, leading to overwhelm, all caused by self-doubt.
Another book that gets right to the heart of perfection–itis is “Art and Fear”. This is mandatory reading for the artist clients that I coach and consult with across the globe by phone. It’s interesting that some issues are universal.
The chapter about perfectionism in “Art and Fear” illustrates a ceramics class that is divided in half at the beginning of the semester. One half of the class is instructed to make one perfect vessel. And they will be graded on the quality of that vessel. That’s it. This is their sole assignment.
The other half of the class is told that there grade will be based on the total weight of the number of vessels they create. The more clay they shape, the higher their grade.
Which group at the end of the semester produced the better quality and more creativity? The group that weighed in, of course. Why? Because they where not fussing and paining over the outcome, freeing them to feel, experiment, and to be more spontaneous, and creative.