creative ideas

They say there’s a thin line between genius and insanity.  I also think that the distance between creative perfection and insanity is probably pretty tiny.  When I worked for other people in the past, I have often been told that “done trumps perfect”, but that’s never been something I agreed with.  I’m not obsessive, but I AM a Virgo.  I am also very passionate about the work that I do.

I often spend what many people would consider too much time “perfecting” some written work or design, when I really should move on. Some call this “analysis paralysis.”  I like that term better than “writer’s block” or “idea jam”, don’t you? Over time, as I navigate these choppy creative waters, the work emerges. I refine, finesse, edit and rework. I doubt myself. Then I congratulate myself. Then I second guess. Somehow I get to something that really works and release my artful expressions into the world. That is when “done trumps perfect.”

The collision of ideas

The studies aren’t entirely conclusive, but there appears to be some link between mental illness and creativity. The CNN article HERE shared this insightful quote from Scott Barry Kaufman (an American psychologist and writer):

“It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible. Because you never know. Sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas.”

Reading a lot and seeking inspiration from varied sources can result in the collision of ideas and new approaches. But it can also be exhausting and confusing. For example, I admire both minimalist and maximalist artists. I love the simplicity of clean, clear design. But other times I like the chaos of disorder, scratchy lines and crazy color. How the heck do I reconcile these contradictory approaches in my own work?  I think about my clients’ audience first – then my client second.

It’s the anxiety of research, admiration, experimentation and practice that helps me reconcile everything. Once I’ve digested all these approaches, my own voice eventually emerges. It just takes some time and effort, and then my mantra that “done trumps perfect”.

The poet T. S. Eliot had this to say on the subject of creative anxiety:

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity.”

A certain level of creative angst seems to fuel our artistic growth. It’s not always pleasant. We don’t know where it will take us, only that it seems necessary. So we dive into the deep end, tread water and somehow avoid drowning. The turbulent flow drags us down the creative river. We smash against the rocks sometimes, but we love the swim. When we emerge, and the work reflects this chaotic journey… in a GOOD way. It all leads to growth and a strengthening of our skills.

Some creatives reach a comfortable level of achievement and then play it safe. They resist the discomfort of growth, thus denying themselves a deeper level of personal expression. I’ve decided that if I want to keep growing creatively, I have to get comfortable with anxiety. Stop playing it safe. Consistently throw myself in the white water rapids of creativity. Study styles and approaches outside my wheelhouse. Adopt some unexpected changes. See what happens.

The price of admission

I don’t know if T. S. Eliot was right. Is anxiety the handmaiden of creativity? I’ve met plenty of easy going, happy creative’s who don’t seem anxious at all. They seem to keep changing growing. But I suspect, if you pull back the magic curtain, you’ll see their struggles. That’s the price of admission.

So the bottom line is that, as I’ve said often before, creativity is king.  But it’s not easy.  There comes a point in the creative process when you must stop analyzing and tweaking and be DONE.  Done trumps perfect.  The quest for creative perfection must end at some point, and someone really talented will know EXACTLY when that point is!

Done trumps perfect

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