Practice makes progress, how to let go of perfection

Hi everyone, how are you doing? Hopefully still well and staying safe.

Weirdly, I actually feel quite grateful this week for being one of the 12 weekers, as it seems the less confusing and the safer situation to be in, given Boris’s most recent and fairly confusing announcement.

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Thank goodness I am allowed out for a few short walks 

Last week I was climbing the walls a little but since I’ve started a new creative project and done some vision and planning work, I’ve decided to flip how I feel about still being at home and see it as a sign to make some major progress on the work I want to do.

Which leads me on to my topic today. I want to talk to you all 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, oh and we’ll take the movie rights too please! 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!

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Lesley’s creative iced biscuits!

I heard this recently from my friend Lesley when I interviewed her for this Blog, she talked about her love of making cakes and buns. 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!’

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

Jake’s first attempts at hydro-dipping!

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

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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 more ‘perfectionist’ types and so I think also ‘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 want to make sure they make significant progress to get there.

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.

Happy with my photo, not as happy with my imperfect drawing – does it matter? No, because I thoroughly enjoyed sketching it out in the sunshine

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!’ Levi Roots

When I first heard this, I was like ‘Yes!!! That is soooooo true!’ And it absolutely is!

Failure is only defined by how we allow it to 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 going, 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.

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.

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I’m really enjoying ink sketching because you have to just go for it, there’s no second chances!

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. This 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 particular style wasn’t right for you and so try another type, thereby learning from the feedback, and not getting hung up on ‘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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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 for 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 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.

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 hard right now, I know all too well how tricky it can get 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 this 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.

If this has inspired you, please do comment and share, I love hearing from my readers, even more so now as I crave human connection! Also please do tell me what other topics around creativity you’d like to see on here, I love researching into this topic, I learn too and I want to be useful, I want to help you find the perfect creative activity for you or  give you the confidence to start.

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

 

 

 

2 Comments on “Practice makes progress, how to let go of perfection

  1. A lot to think of there – my daughter is very talented, artistically, and relaxes that way. I recognised the he point about perfectionism – I’ve tried to draw … hmmm, tho I love to see the results of others talents. I crochet occasionally, do patch work, read (at least two books per week), and garden … my happy place but, I find myself going down the perfectionist route there sometimes but pull it back …. you got me thinking 👍

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  2. As a Virgo with very strong characters traits such as being self critical and a perfectionist this is a timely reminder that I need to chill out and live by the motto ‘practice makes progress’ and actually slow down and teach myself to enjoy the process more. You may see some strange needle felt creatures appearing as a result. Thanks Juliet xx xx 🤗

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