Practice makes Progress, how to let go of perfectionism

Discovering how to ditch perfectionism to help you make progress in your creative activities and find a whole lot more joy in the process, with useful tips to get you started.

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I want to talk to you about perfectionism and how contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily the skill you need to take up creative activities.

I hear so often from people who feel they are not good enough to join an art club or to pen a short story and it instantly makes me feel sad, because you are not meant to be an expert from day one.

Can you imagine if a medical student was asked to perform an operation on their first day of Uni, or if someone was asked to swim the channel after their first swimming lesson? It would be madness!

Yet for some truly bizarre reason when it comes to creative activities, and especially ones we have perhaps had some experience of before at school like art and writing, we expect to be instant Picasso’s working on our first painting or best-selling authors as we type up our story.

It makes no sense whatsoever why we put this immense pressure on ourselves.

For a start, in school, we were following what was asked of us, the curriculum, not necessarily topics that we wanted to do or would choose to follow. Using the examples of art and writing, the scope is so incredibly wide, you can start literally anywhere and on something that really fires your imagination and sparks your interest. I hear all the time, ‘oh I’m useless at art’, yet the scope of ‘art’ is huge!

I heard this recently from a friend when I interviewed her for this Blog, she talked about her love of making iced buns and biscuits. She sent through pictures of beautifully designed iced biscuits and I immediately messaged her and said, ‘If this is not art, I don’t know what is!’

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Too often we have pigeon-holed ‘art’ to mean what we did at school and have believed every word out of an art teacher’s mouth who said we were no good at it and set that opinion in stone in our heads.

I challenge you to counter this steadfast belief you may have and take a closer look at what styles and types are now on offer in the art-world these days.

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From ink sketching to Brusho painting, there are so many techniques to try

From calligraphy to pottery, from hydro-dipping to ink sketching, from watercolour landscapes to bubble printing, from lino-printing to pastel portraits…..I could write a list of thousands of styles and would defy anyone to say they hate every single one if they had a go!

As I preach all the time; Creativity is about the process, enjoying what you are doing ‘in the moment’ and not worrying too much about the outcome.

But I also realise this can be really tricky for those people out there who are of a more ‘perfectionist’ mindset and so I think ‘Practice makes progress’ rather than ‘perfect’ can be more useful for those who seek a good result.

And there will be those who not only want to improve their skills as a hobby but also those who may want to take things further and make a small business out of what they do and will want to ensure they make significant progress to get there.

        

Very happy with my photo, not as happy with my sketch, but does it matter? No, because I had a pleasurable hour sketching in the garden, fully relaxed and practicing my skills.

This is where the practice comes in, just like when your music teacher would nag you when you were learning the violin / clarinet /piano/trumpet as a child! I know mine did! Back then I would get ‘Practice makes permanent!’ and there’s an element of truth in that too.

But my point is each time you dare to have a go, you will learn new things about yourself and your creative activity of choice. Even if there are elements you may not be happy with, it will have taught you something for your next attempt. As the great Levi Roots said on the ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ podcast with Holly Tucker;

‘There’s no such word as failure, failure is just feedback!’

Failure is only defined by how we allow it to make us feel, or how we allow others to make us feel. If instead we flip it and just see it as a valuable lesson for next time and worth-while feedback, then it feels so much better in our soul and allows us to not catastrophise and move on.

The more you practice, the more confidence you will gain and in turn the more you will want to keep doing it, because it simply feels good.

Every time you have a go, it’s a new experience, a new chance to practice what you’ve learned and develop your skills and so you progress and move forward in your creative journey. Plus, it consistently nurtures your self-belief.

Practicing is the only way to do this, without it, you’re standing still. The danger of perfectionism is that it stops you doing this vital work, the important practice, for fear of it not being a perfect result.

Think about when we have children for example, we can’t predict if we are going to be the best parent, it’s a complete leap of faith because without making the jump, we will never become it. It’s the same with writing, you may want to become a ‘writer’ and the only way to do that is to write, whatever that may look like at the beginning, really doesn’t matter.

Can you imagine if we judged our own parent skills from week 2 when we are knee-deep in nappies, sleep-deprived and getting by on biscuits for breakfast?  As parents we learn as we go along and trust that eventually we will have some understanding of what we are doing! We need that same faith in the process as creatives.   

So, if by this point, I’ve convinced you to be brave and dip your toe/ leap on in, let’s take the example of writing, look at how you might begin and try different styles on for size.

It’s important to see how they fit with your personality, your interests and your current lifestyle to give you the best chance of carrying on; here are some examples of what I mean.

Personality / interest/lifestyle

Writing Style to start with

Feedback -Did I love / hate it

How could I take it further or What could I try next?

I have a vivid imagination

Short stories, character development, consider other worlds! Let your imagination run riot

 

I’m time poor / have little patience, but want to have a go

Poetry, Haikus (a very short form of poetry), Social Media content or captions are a great place to start

 

History fascinates me

Research and then write your own historical fiction / none-fiction

 

I have/ had an interesting life and want to share it

Journal writing, personal experience articles, blogging

 

I have an idea for a story that’s been following me around for years

Don’t delay! Get the first draft down and do not worry about the quality of your writing

 

I have a passion for nature but don’t know where to start

Describe your favourite creatures/season/weather and explain why, create a scrapbook with pictures and treasures and descriptive writing

 

I enjoy making up stories for my children at bedtime

Again, don’t delay, write them down, even if you do nothing with them, they’ll provide great memories for your family

 

I love reading crime fiction / gripping twisty books

Use your experience of what you’ve read and enjoyed, could you have a go yourself? Start with a short story

 

I’ve done well in my career and now considered ‘an expert’

They always say write about what you know – could this experience be shared on business articles on Linked In for example?

 

I miss my friends and family during these uncertain times

Write letters to the ones you love, everyone loves to receive a letter, make them unique, what do you miss about them? Think about your fond memories with that person.

 

I need to be inspired / need a kick up the b**

Think about some motivating words to help you get going and mind-map it out, e.g. a word of the year to keep coming back to and help you with your writing. Make sure it is visible in your house.

 

Or you could create a vision board, specifically for your writing dreams using pictures and inspiring words of where you want to get to.

 

I have a health condition that means little physical energy to get my writing going

This is where scheduling your time is key. Create a plan on a day by day basis. If you feel good in the morning, plan how much you would like to do amongst other tasks. Even just 10 minutes a day will make a real difference and give you a sense of achievement.

 

I’m a perfectionist and can’t stop self-editing my work!

Find strategies that work for you. If necessary, create separate documents each day so that you can’t go back and automatically look at what you wrote before.

 

Set yourself a timer to work to, short bursts of time and / a word count too. Perfectionists like to have goals to work towards. This way you’ll concentrate more, you won’t have the time to look back.

 

Hopefully the above will encourage you to get started – you could write a similar list for yourself on any other creative activity, if writing doesn’t float your boat.

The end column is then for you to fill in, so you can learn which styles suit you and work out where you want to go next. That means if you don’t enjoy something you tried, it doesn’t mean that you should then give up completely on that activity, it just means that that particular style wasn’t right for you and you can give another type of the activity a go, thereby learning from the feedback, not failure! See what I did there?

Similarly, you are never going to write a ‘perfect first draft’ of a novel, and so don’t set yourself up for that crazy expectation! Be realistic, I once read a quote by Terry Pratchett that says;

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‘The first draft is just you telling the story’ meaning just get it written down for yourself, so you understand it outside of your head, the next draft is then you refining your story and telling it to others.

I’ve been following Lucy Atkin’s tutorials on Psychologies Magazine’s Instagram (Fridays 1.30pm) and she talked about this on last week’s episode, she refers to that first draft as the ‘Crap First Draft’ and to never take it too seriously or over-worry about it.

It was a refreshing reminder and gives you permission to let your brain wonder and go down avenues you weren’t expecting as you write without the constraints of it having to be technically correct or grammatically perfect.

Just write and keep writing until you get the whole messy elements of the story down, you don’t even have to have an ending if it doesn’t come to you immediately, you can figure that out on the next draft.

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Finally, now is the time to do this, not in 6 / 12 months’ time when life is a bit more ‘perfect’ – if ever the universe is trying to tell us something it’s now!

Life is messy, it’s complicated, and it is tougher than ever right now BUT that is not a reason / excuse to not do what deep down you know you really want to do.  

Don’t waste this precious time and in some cases this ‘extra’ time we have – we might not ever get this again and you could end up kicking yourself if you do.

Remember, Practice makes Progress! When I started my Blog and Website, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I’m now almost a year and a half and 61 posts in, and writing it fills me with joy, you too can have a piece of that and we all need some extra joy right now.

Take care, Juliet, The Curious Creative x

 

For more ways to bring creativity into your life, check out my website for a whole host inspiring Blog posts, interviews and resources:

www.thecuriouscreativeclub.co.uk

Or find me on Instagram @thecuriouscreativeclub or Facebook, The Curious Creative Club

 

 

 

 

 

  

Go to the profile of Juliet Thomas, The Curious Creative Club

Juliet Thomas, The Curious Creative Club

Creative Blogger, Maker and Accountability Coach, Mrs

Following a 20+ years corporate career working in PR and Marketing, I left to pursue my life-long dream of writing a novel. However, I soon came to realise that I didn't want to focus on just one thing. I'm a huge advocate for all things creative and so I set up a website and weekly Blog to combine my passions of writing, art and photography and to encourage people to live a more full-filled, curious and purposeful life. I deliver local writing workshops, am the founder of a local accountability group - WOW Wednesdays, produce artwork I sell locally and I am one of Psychologies Magazine's Real-Eco panel, testing environmentally friendly products for the magazine. The Blog focuses on all aspects of creativity, the psychology behind why it is so good for you as well as many practical tips and options to get going. The website has a resource page too, The Curious Cave which allows readers to learn more and further their creative journey through my recommendations of books, magazines, podcasts and other inspiring social media accounts

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