This will not be a great post, nor even a good one. In fact it’ll be far from perfect and that’s exactly the point.
As I flicked through my journal to find a blank page to abuse, I came across a lot of my writing that I have never published. It got me thinking briefly about how important all the shit I don’t post to my blog is. This is a mini “homage” to the work that never made it to press and to all of you that have stopped yourselves short of putting creative work “out there”.
Is it hard to create or do we make it hard?
In a lot of ways it is hard to put creative work into the world. Not in the practical sense; it’s actually really bloody simple nowadays, but rather in the mental sense. What I mean is that it can be relatively easy to produce ideas and then create from that, but our minds are the biggest critic in what we do. Our minds are directing our actions, they are telling us not to draw that line, or write that word or play that note because of what others might think about it when they see or hear it. The trouble is those doubts and negative self beliefs are so strong that they prevent us doing our best work, work which is free of limitations and has the power to fulfil us and in turn others.
It makes sense that our brains do this, they are just trying to protect us having learnt some poor lesson earlier in life. Opening ourselves up to criticism is one of the most challenging things we can face now in today’s modern society, it makes us vulnerable. That is a fortunate and lucky situation to be in because we don’t have to deal with famine, war or disease, but rather something that we can change. That doesn’t make it less daunting because we only have reference points from the life we are in, not a terrible one we’ve seen on the news. Nor should we feel guilty about that, it is what it is, we were born into this life and we can’t change that. If we had come from war, famine or disease then our view on life would be dramatically different. However like any human that has come through difficulty in their lives, we have the ability to change, to alter our self belief and the programs that run inside our brains.
Writing “good enough” rather than “perfect”.
Hi my name is Tom and I am a recovering imperfect perfectionist. A lot of people pride themselves in being perfectionists, that’s cool, whatever floats your boat. It hasn’t worked for me though, ever. It has made me less likely to finish projects and more likely to quit them and change direction. It’s created a level of anxiety in my mind that is unnecessary and in its own way contributed to the periods of depression through my life. That is far from perfect.
Over the last six months I have had coaching to help me move beyond perfectionism to an acceptance of “good enough”. This will sound like a cop out to many, but when your standards are as high as mine (for myself) then good is actually not the enemy of great, it is actually bloody marvellous. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I am amazing (I am still working on that level of self belief), but I know from feedback that what I produce when I am doing good work is more than acceptable. More importantly than that my mental health is a whole lot better when I am just consistently producing “good” rather than trying to attain an unreachable “perfect”. The latter meaning that I burn out and want to check out of life.
As a writer good enough means that I produce more and publish more. It doesn’t mean I put out crap, but rather that I finish work and don’t “dilly dally” on it for several months before never publishing it. It means that I face my vulnerabilities in putting myself out there for criticism and listen to the people that matter when they give it.
As a person it means a level of fulfilment that I never felt when I was trying to be perfect, a calm and satisfied feeling that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be. It is about being honest with myself and others without trying to please them.
So where do I begin?
Make yourself vulnerable. Whatever your medium find a way to publish it for people to see. Perhaps invite friends to read, look or listen to it and ask for their thoughts. You don’t have to act on anything they say if you don’t want to, but it will get you used to people talking about what you are producing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what people actually think, rather than listening to what your head tells you. Once you’ve begun publishing make sure you do one very important thing, keep going! You won’t change or improve if you don’t consistently practice. At the same time don’t forget that you aren’t saving the world (not yet anyway), the only pressure on you to do this thing is from you, so make sure you enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously. That has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt in the last year. Once you start enjoying the creative process then any mental barriers in your path will begin to fall away.
Ok so I know I made that sound simple, but it really can be if you want to see a change and commit to it. We can either create difficulty in our lives or learn to overcome it.
Let me know how you get on,