Slow Living

Creativity and Perfectionism

Letting go of perfectionism lets you ignite your creativity and get into some great art projects when you’re stuck at home. Here are my thoughts on creativity and perfectionism.

There are few things that can lighten the long hours of quarantine better than art and creativity.

Even a hasty doodle can be uplifting – it’s a moment of beauty in an otherwise hazy blur of home life and work routines.

It’s been said that creativity is a basic human need and not just a weekend whim or an easy college course. Art nourishes and sustains us in the darkest times.

And though not everyone considers themselves creative, we are born to be – and it’s just life, circumstance or a lack of confidence that snuffs out what’s inside us.

How can we ignite our creativity and experience the pleasure of creating something beautiful, now that many of us have some extra hours at home?

Perfectionism often stands in our way.

How to let go of perfectionism – 3 simple tricks

Here are some ways I’ve been letting go of perfectionism and allowing myself to create what’s sometimes good and sometimes bad art.

1. I don’t call it “perfectionism.”

Because that word has “perfect” in it, and how can perfect ever be a bad thing?

Instead I’ve been calling it “obsessing.”

That word makes up the term Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And I like to think an insistence on having everything just so – and being anxious when it isn’t – is a streak of OCD (though I’m no psychologist, it just helps me combat “perfectionism” when I think about it in this way).

creativity and perfectionism
Perfectionism often stands in the way of creativity, yet we glorify and glamorize it.

OCD is being uncomfortable when a book is out of place on the shelf, or anxious when there’s anything not perfectly streamlined and ordered (watch the hilarious TV series Monk for a comical look at OCD).

So whenever I detect an OCD tendency in myself, I don’t flatter myself by calling it “perfectionism.”

Wanting everything to be blunder-free is not “perfection.” It’s a crippling self-doubt and obsession over details that hampers creativity.

Next time you find yourself joking that you’re “such a perfectionist,” try saying “I’ve got a streak of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” It sounds harsh but it will get you thinking differently about creativity and perfectionism.

2. I don’t treat anything as final.

Hemingway once said: “The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’d argue sometimes the second draft isn’t much better.

So I treat the rough drafts pretty roughly. And I treat art as an experiment or playtime until I hit a nugget of goodness.

The same goes for eBooks, captions, photos or anything else I create here. WordPress has an edit button and this is all just a work in progress.

I’ll probably never go back and edit everything, but the fact I can is reassuring.

Once you realize everything is a work in progress, you’ll feel less anxious about the end result.

3. I value progress over perfection.

Even if hypothetically we create something “perfect,” it actually never is because perfection is a benchmark that keeps rising whenever we meet it.

The photos I considered gorgeous a few years ago I would have shot a bit differently today. And there’s nothing I ever write that I wouldn’t edit at least a little bit every time I re-read it.

And so the best we can do is the best at that point of time.

Getting back into watercolor – creativity and perfectionism

I haven’t done watercolor in years, even though I loved it during college and came close to doing an art minor at Berkeley.

Getting back into art always seemed so time-consuming. Plus I had grandiose visions of sketching everyday for a half hour and other unattainable goals that kept me from ever picking up a pencil.

I thought I’d need an entire quiet afternoon to paint something worthwhile. And so I put creativity off for years.

Then one afternoon I got some odd bits of paper, old brushes and nearly-dry paint tubes out, inspired by a blog post about creativity on WishWishWish.

I flipped through a few tutorials on YouTube and found one that I liked on painting leaves.

Fifteen minutes later I had a small painting. It wasn’t great but I ignored its faults because the pleasure was so much greater than any imperfection.

creativity and perfectionism
Creating art doesn’t take nearly as long as we imagine.

And creativity is like that.

It’s like being in love. When you care about another person you’ll forgive their loud snoring or odd taste in music.

And when you love writing, painting, baking, or anything else creative, the process is so rewarding that you’ll forgive the blunders.

And you’ll forget the critics too because it will be the creation – and not the end product – that matters.

6 ideas for getting creative at home

Here are some practical tips on getting your creativity going at home:

1. Watch YouTube painting tutorials.

Observe how the artist uses their brush and how they mix colors. Absorb the skills intellectually before you try and make them work with your hands.

2. Start with the basics.

Learn to draw lines or practice the art of shading before you attempt to paint a bouquet of flowers.

3. Join a community.

There are some great online challenges to help you get creative.

Here are some of my favorites:

Me and Orla is doing a Stay Home Photo Challenge that invites you to create some beautiful images in just 15 minutes at home. Read about the challenge on her blog and sign up for her newsletter to get new prompts.

being creative or perfect
Joining an artsy community is a powerful way to get inspired by others.

Heiter Magazine is doing The Heiter May Moments Challenge on Instagram that includes daily prompts for inspiring and calming activities you can do with your hands.

– I’ve launched the hashtag #5DaysOfSlow on Instagram that’s all about the everyday habits and routines we practice to slow down our day.

The Art of Slow Sipping is doing a 30 Days of Intentions challenge on Instagram that includes daily prompts aimed to express your feelings better and build connections in the community.

Joining an online challenge adds accountability and motivates you to keep going.

4. Don’t get lost in shopping for supplies.

I did my first few watercolors on horrid paper. I made a wreath for Heiter Magazine’s challenge with bits of leftover wire and some ribbon from a cake delivery.

Work with what you have. And when you find a medium you love then treat yourself to some good supplies. Who needs the guilt of piles of expensive supplies that go unused?

5. Work with a timer.

You’ll be amazed at what you can create in a half hour. And that knowledge will make you less likely to ever say, “I don’t have time for art.”

6. Put on some music and cancel any distractions.

Close the door and put your phone on mute.

Once you create those first few pieces you’ll see how good if feels to be creative – and not perfect.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the bare necessities of life – and how I’m finally doing what I love – during the pandemic: Minimalism in the Time of Quarantine.

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getting creative at home


  • Anna Jo

    This is lovely, Dee! I agree that nothing needs to be perfect, and we will only keep getting better as time goes by. We should keep making art because we enjoy it and not have to care whether we’re good at it or not. I personally think that making art keeps me sane, and keeps my anxious thoughts at bay. Thank you for encouraging us to get creative!

    • Dee

      Thank you, Anna Jo, and I really agree with you! Art is such a great outlet to express ourselves that I don’t think the final result always matters too much.

  • Giulia

    These are all such wonderful ideas! The don’t get lost shopping for supplies one felt particularly strong for me as I will often faff around with this to avoid getting started!

    • Dee

      Thank you, Giulia! Lots of expensive art supplies feel intimidating to me, so I always like to start simple and then see how it goes.

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