Feel like you have perfectionist tendencies? Maybe choosing what color to use next or what group of images to curate for your show feels overwhelming?
If that sounds like you, this one idea is going to blow your mind while simultaneously letting you off the hook. After reading this, you’ll know why you no longer need to be afraid to take that next step or make that next decision you’ve been hemming and hawing about for fear of doing it wrong.
Honestly, this is an eye-opener.
I was hanging out with a writer friend who mentioned this great analogy from the book Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles. Thank goodness I was hanging out with my friend because I loved the idea Bayles puts forth in this book and I think you will, too. It drives home a big point that we all need.
Check out the idea here (as excerpted from the book) to see what I mean:
"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."
Perfection is not the goal.
This story really drives home that point. If “making the perfect piece” is your goal, you’re going to come up short.
It’s natural to want make something good, something that you absolutely love and that others will, too. That’s why making mistakes can feel awful. That’s why even thinking about making your next piece can be paralyzing. Mistakes in your process cost you time, money, headaches and they can feel like huge setbacks to actually creating the work you envisioned.
When we set out for perfection it’s easy to forget that the path to get anywhere close to perfection includes a lot of mistakes, failures and learning from those endeavors.
Doing, making, and taking action IS the goal.
The end result will lack quality until you’ve tried long enough that it becomes good (or maybe even brilliant) through the learning process of repeated doing and practice.
As a creative person who likely has a long history of making, you may have seen this in your own practice. But what if you apply this idea to other areas of your life?
Where have you seen the idea of quantity over quality in action?
Driving to new places, doing yoga, dealing with difficult people, etc.? -The more you do something the better you get at it, right?
Have you been able to make more quality dinners as a result of learning from cooking dinner five out of the seven nights of the week for the last year? Are you able to walk all over San Francisco without feeling exhausted because you regularly go for long walks with your dog so you’re practiced at it?
Even doing the business side of things follows this rule. The more you talk about what you do, the easier and better it gets. The more you make it a habit to reach out and connect with new and old friends, the easier and more rewarding it gets. The more you send emails to your community, the better they get.
As a person who is selling what they make, do you want the quality of what you make to be equal to the quality of how your run your business?
I know I do. This weekend, I plan to make art that will be a part my next e-update. I need to spend more hours on both my art making and communications right now. Especially the making part because I’m doing something new and I have made nowhere near enough mistakes to be making the quality of work that I want.
And, connecting with people through my email is a great way to share what I’m working on that always leads to good conversations and opportunities. I want to improve the quality of those email conversations by doing more communicating.
Over thinking what I’m making and how I share it means creating and selling art won’t happen. The perfectionist's approach doesn’t serve me here. Taking action, even if it’s got mistakes or doesn’t always feel flawless, will always get me closer to my goals.
How about you? Does this resonate with how you feel sometimes and what you’re working on?
What can you do this weekend to log a few minutes or hours with your craft? Or with the business side of what you do?
I’d love to know what you’re doing as a fellow creative person to build in this idea of quantity over quality as a path to busting perfectionist tendencies to reach your creative and business goals. Let me know in the comments.
Here’s to you making quality happen!