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How I Overcame Creative Stagnation and Perfectionism

This article was originally published on Ms In The Biz on February 5th 2016

Feeling Stuck I’m sure most of us have experienced it at some point. Feeling stuck creatively. Staring at a blank page, or a set of sides not knowing where to go with it. Symptoms may include; procrastination, distraction, suddenly needing to do laundry, or eat, yeah, you’re really hungry now, better go eat. And, huh, this desk really is messy, I should organize it right now.

If you’re anything like me, that procrastination may lead to other unsupportive thoughts. A few of my favorites are, “Is anyone even going to read/watch this?” and “I really don’t think I have anything useful to say anyway”.

Creative block, overthinking and procrastination can be funny to reflect on, but they can also be merciless to a creative career. I can only imagine how many creative geniuses are out there whose work we have yet to experience because they’re stuck, anxious and unsure about their art. Please, don’t be stuck. Your work matters and your unique voice needs to be heard.

Perfection Is Imperfection. I couldn’t possibly write an article on Creative Block without addressing Perfection. Yes, Perfection with a capital P.

Artists are so often obsessed with perfect. Because we see the beauty and perfection in so much around us – our idols, our favorite films – and we want to contribute to that, too. The mere presence of that desire is part of what makes us artists.

But the fact remains; Perfection Never Wins.

Perfection is stifling and stunting.

So here’s what I like to do with perfection – Redefine it. To me, the perfect is in the imperfect. (Kinda meta, I know, stick with me here…)

Look at nature. Nature isn’t perfect, it is lightness and dark, birth and death, and all those things, both beautiful and ugly, that make up this wondrous circle of existence. What if perfection lay in the wonder of it all?

Great, Jasmin, but “how does this relate to the scene I’m working on?” you may be asking…

It relates to your scene, in the same way it relates to you and everything about you.

You are perfect, whole and complete, just as you are. Wrinkles, cellulite, personality flaws and all. And you’re perfect because you strive for more, you learn and fall, and grow and persist.

And THAT is how we need to approach our work. Only that acceptance will free you of Perfect and bring you to perfection.

My Favorite Ways to Overcome Creative Bloc

Move Move, dance, put on a favorite tune and just flow. Movement is what it takes creatively, too. Just starting something, anything, will start the mind working creatively. Pick up a pen, write some stream of consciousness for a while.

Get it Wrong, Often I often hear the advice from successful entrepreneurs that if you’re keeping everyone happy, you’re not trying hard enough. If you’re not hearing no at least once a day, you’re not putting yourself out there enough.

In his book, The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris suggests doing a little exercise in an effort to get out of your comfort zone and build resilience to fear-of-failure/rejection etc. He suggests, asking for the phone numbers of two attractive people each day (not indefinitely, perhaps for a week!) The goal is not to get the number but to get over the feeling of fear.

Another, perhaps more creatively focused, option would be to write/shoot/create something once a day that’s “short ’n’ shitty”. Don’t spend a lot of time doing it (ahem, trying to get it right) and expect it to be a flop. Just do it for the practice of it… And perhaps, just maybe, you’ll find some perfection in there somewhere.

Meditate, or Semi-Sleep State Perhaps the most important one is meditation.

Anyone else have these GENIUS ideas as they’re drifting off to sleep and come morning, they’re gone? (TIP: keep a notebook by your bed!) That’s because there’s an abundance of creative power in that particular mental state achieved by non-directive meditation (techniques where you refrain from trying to control the content of the mind), or the relaxed mind state. Alpha Brain waves are typically created during meditation and are known to increase creative capacity. Oh, and did I mention Alpha Brain waves are also created during exercise? 😉

Other Hacks My other hacks include; setting a timer and taking regular breaks, turning off electronic distractions (email, phone alerts etc), working in a conducive environment, and making that cup of tea before I sit down to start.

Just Begin One small step is all it takes. Remember the mantra: Done is better than Perfect.

You can take one, small step. Just begin. And if you get distracted, pick up where you left off, and begin again. It is possible to overcome the power of procrastination and Perfectionism. One small step at a time.


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