Creative Blöks: The Perfection Fairy
Each step you take on a creative path—whether you’re designing, drawing, or developing—is a step into the cloudy unknown. And along this path you’ll likely encounter a number of challenges, traps, and hazards that you must overcome before you lose your creative way.
In the first installment of “Denizens of the Creative Hinterlands,” I introduced you to The Flat-Footed Naysayer. Today, I’d like to warn you about a tiny yet terribly potent poisonous pest: The Perfection Fairy.
The Perfection Fairy
These common yet powerfully dangerous pixies seem friendly at first—even eager to help, full of "suggestions" for your work. However, a Perfection Fairy carries a magnifying glass instead of a wand, because she knows that if you inspect anything closely enough, you can always find a flaw.
The Perfection Fairy, being nearly weightless, enjoys hovering around you like a hungry wasp eyeing a piece of salmon on a picnic table. Buzzing about on damselfly-like wings, the Perfection Fairy picks nits. By “helpfully” pointing at imperfections in your work, she insidiously draws you into wasting time, endlessly perfecting unimportant, irrelevant details.
It is easy to recognize the Perfection Fairy in the field by her sour expression of disapproval, a faint smell of vinegar, and absolute lack of a sense of humor.
The Perfection Fairy’s hook is the myth that everything can always be made better. Don't take that bait! Remember that “just enough” often does the job far better than “too much.”
If You Encounter a Perfection Fairy
Never, ever disagree with a Perfection Fairy! Instead, simply say, "yes, you are right" or "thank you for pointing that out!" and move forward with what you are doing. Arguing will only serve to keep you running in circles.
If you find yourself in the grip of perfectionism, consider embracing imperfection: Mess things up. Draw with your other hand. Spill your paint. Cut up your poem and rearrange the words in a collage. Spray water on your water color. In short, use less precise tools or introduce something random or natural into your process. Surrender control.
Also, remember that “Process” is a repellant word to the Perfection Fairy. Feel free to sprinkle it all over your inner conversations: “My process,” “it's a process,” “I'm exploring a new process…” By focusing on the process, you can prevent spinning off into a perpetual perfection loop.
Finally, while the nits picked by the Perfection Fairy may actually be useful, be mindful to address them only after you finish your task. Perfection is only an illusory ideal; real value lies in artful imperfection. Creation is messy.
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