An artist giving her paintings a thumbs up to show her pride in her art perfectionism.

Is “good enough” not good enough for you? Are your standards unrealistically high? Are you willing to produce something that’s not all that great?

Whether you create paintings, blog posts, music, or hairstyles, you have a personal standard. You might also tend to set that standard too high. We’ve pulled together some advice on how to overcome art perfectionism from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.

Read more to get some encouragement—and perhaps a needed adjustment in your standards.

Art Perfectionism

Cameron explains that many artists hold themselves back due to their obsession with perfection. Perfectionism blocks people from achieving their artistic destiny, first and foremost, because art is subjective—“perfect” art simply doesn’t exist. As such, striving for perfection will simply cause you to hyperfixate on unimportant details and prevent you from finishing projects. Further, the fear of failing to achieve perfection prevents many artists from even taking a first step toward their goals.

Cameron makes two recommendations for dealing with art perfectionism. First, rather than striving for perfection, identify and strive for “good enough.” Second, allow yourself to create bad art. Cameron elaborates that no artist creates the ideal final product on their first try. Before you create good art, you have to be willing to create bad art.

Advice From Elizabeth Gilbert

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert reiterates the nefarious nature of perfectionism and provides a few additional tips that may help you follow Cameron’s recommendations for overcoming it.

First, to release your perception of what your art “should” be and strive for “good enough” rather than “perfect,” Gilbert says you must let go of three common beliefs: 1) that your art must be novel, 2) that your art must be relevant to others, and 3) that your art must be lofty or impactful.

Second, to help you follow Cameron’s advice to get comfortable creating “bad art,” you can try some of Gilbert’s tips: Don’t let others’ opinions affect how or what you create, and don’t fear feedback from others—they’re usually not paying attention anyway. Further, be realistic about what you can accomplish with the time you have. This will help you set realistic expectations for yourself, which may increase your willingness to create something imperfect.
Art Perfectionism: Tips From Elizabeth Gilbert & Julia Cameron

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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