Perfectionism is the Killer of Creativity

June 12, 2017

Are you waiting to do something, you know, when the time is right?

Is that project a bit late because you just want to fix one more thing?

Deleting dozens of photos until you get the perfect shot for Pinterest?  (Full disclosure – the image accompanying this article is my own Pinterest-worthy fruit salad!)

Pinterest-worthy fruit salad, perfection

I’m not a perfectionist, you insist. I don’t need things to be perfect.  I just want them to be, like, really really good.

I get it.  I’m not a perfectionist either.  But I live in a state of heightened awareness that hitting “send” on that email without making sure there are no typos will somehow reflect poorly on me and be the end of my career.  It might be because of that one time at CBS News when I wrote an email about how long-time anchor and celebrated storyteller Harry Smith had been a bit ornery on a shoot and then, haphazardly, I somehow SENT IT TO HARRY SMITH.

It did not mean the end of my career.  It did require a sincere apology.

But that story pales in comparison to the one of the poor co-worker who left out a single letter – the letter “R”- in his invitation to all co-workers to the party in the pantry.  Figured it out yet?  What he wrote was “Party in the panty.”  That was seven years ago and I still laugh every time I think of it in some sort of Schadenfreudian delight.

You don’t need me to tell you that perfectionism of any kind, whether it’s trying to appear perfect or just being fearful of mistakes, is a creativity killer.  You can’t take a chance if you’re constantly second-guessing and editing yourself.

The best stories have no such perfect veneer.  You’d never appreciate the glorious peaks if you didn’t have to first wade through the muck in the valley.

It’s why I’m forcing myself to write, do a quick look-over and then post, even if it’s not perfect.  You might find an errant typo, or – god forbid – a grammatical error.  Don’t judge me. I’d rather get my creative thoughts out there than kill them by overthinking.

So let it go, just a little.  Don’t wait.  Hit send. Post that picture that’s not quite ready for Pinterest.  Invite your colleagues for cake at the party in the panty.  If he’s in good humor, Harry Smith can come too.

Valerie Gordon is an award-winning television producer, long-time storyteller and founder of career and communications strategy firm Commander-in-She. She teaches audiences how to use storytelling to create greater success and satisfaction at work and in our lives. A recovering perfectionist, she still worries you may find typos in this article. 

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