Perfectionism is Procrastination

In 2009, I wrote an entry on this very blog about creative procrastination. In it, I expressed a view that when one is procrastinating, it's often a sign of something else, and in this entry, it was about lack of drive. There are those that do and those that talk about doing. The people who carry through with a project are driven to do so by something deep within, while those that think about doing something and never carry through lack drive. That lack of drive can stem from a number of factors: either they're not really that interested in it, or perhaps they're suffering a form of writers-block. But what if perfectionism is the culprit?

I bought the Brooks Jensen 'single exposure' series recently. They're small A5 booklets containing small, easy to digest articles by Brooks on many subjects related to photography. One that got me this week was his article about perfectionism. I've written about this a few times in the past myself, and I entirely agree with his viewpoint that perfectionism is a form of procrastination. Except, that I think that what perfectionism does, is create a form of creative constipation (otherwise known as writers block).

By setting the bar too high, your abilities are no long able to keep up with your own standards, and ultimately, everything you do, is found to be wanting, lacking in some way. This causes severe dissatisfaction in what you're doing (which kills the whole point in why you started photography in the first place), and before you know it - the whole thought of going out with your camera to do anything, fills you with dread.

In my previous posts about Perfectionism, some of the replies indicated that Perfectionism is ultimately a destructive attitude. I completely agree. But what we need to do instead, is strive for Excellence. There is a subtle but major difference between Perfectionism and Excellence. Perfectionism is the act of striving for something that is not possible while striving for Excellence allows you the freedom to reach the best of your current abilities.

Being too much of a perfectionist, means that you may never actually finish anything, because it's never good enough, or because you feel it's not reached some unobtainable standard - and it never will.

In my own photography, It would be all too easy to look back at some of my best images, and worry that any new work will not be as good, or will not be an improvement. I think measuring yourself in this way is dangerous to your creativity. For creativity to flow, you need to let go and see what happens. By placing no constraints on yourself when you are out making new images, can you possibly create some new work. It is only when you return from a shoot that you should allow yourself to be critical and strive for excellence, but don't strive for Perfectionism, because you'll never get there.

Which reminds me, that next time I'm out shooting, not to beat myself up so much, when I feel things aren't going the way I hoped - this is a reference back to my recent trip to Iceland in June, where I just so happened to create a body of work I'm extremely pleased with, but didn't feel it was coming together at the time of the shoot.