Cursed by creative perfectionism? Learn when to pull the trigger
I will never forget an analogy once given by a retail boss. At the time, I, like most creative beings, needed to let go of extreme perfectionism to get more done.
“Think of it like lining up a target. You could spend forever waiting for the perfect shot, and never get a thing. It’s imperative to line up as good a shot as you can, and pull the trigger.”
I have returned to that moment countless times, and am grateful for the lesson.
You can spend forever ‘perfecting’ a piece. But instead, you have to decide when it is done, and have the confidence you’ve made the right decision.
The same thinking applies to so many things:
Photographing art, designing catalogues and invitations, writing an artist bio, preparing a press release, composing a blog, making a video tour in the studio or gallery, perfectly lining up pictures on a wall… whew! The list is endless.
Just a few weeks ago, we sent out printed literature to out members that had an error on the front page. However, production was tight. Christmas loomed, and there simply wasn’t enough time for the designer to correct the error in time. The pamphlet was time sensitive and my options were black & white: it was sent with the mistake, or not at all.
Taking a deep breath, I embraced the “pull the trigger” mentality, and decided that on balance it was better to send the pamphlet than not. And guess what? No one but me (and my inner perfectionist) knew about the error.
Similarly, no one else knows when you doubt that a work of art is completed. No one else knows that you’ve rewritten a paragraph in a press release 10 times and are still uncertain about it. No one has the foggiest idea that you’re not 100% pleased with the video on the homepage of your website.
One thing you can do to save time and minimise avoidable mistakes is create checklists for self. For instance, make a cheat-sheet of what-must-always-be-included on every single postal invitation, email invitation, press release, artist bio, et cetera. Hold yourself accountable by always checking the list before pressing print or send. Though you could probably spend forever making the visual element amazing, you will at least provide essential details to get people to events, your website and so on.
Another thing to do is give yourself time (when possible) to proofread and edit, and show new material to peers to double-check. Yet by the same token, be realistic and embrace the notion that sometimes, you simply won’t have the luxury of time, and need to pull the trigger. You do so knowingly, and the good news is that your aim will naturally improve over time.
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Photographs © Chris King.