I’ve realized (not recently, but it keeps hitting me on the head often) that perfectionism is number one reason why my projects don’t get done.
Often people think it’s laziness, but I think laziness is more of a consequence of other things not being in check. Really lazy people don’t like to work at all, and given the chance not to do anything, they really aren’t going to do anything but sit on their couch for a year.
(When you have a person that is passionate about some things, but doesn’t enjoy doing other things, and finds it difficult to find motivation to do the things she doesn’t enjoy doing, labeling this person “lazy” is too easy, and it doesn’t solve any problems. You don’t know the reasons behind this perceived laziness.)
Anyway, onto the real topic, which is perfectionism.
When I want to make a project 100% on my own terms and the way I imagined it, and I realize it’s not possible for me at this moment, I choose not to do it. I postpone it for some future time when I’ll have all the resources I need to do this project properly.
If I see I’m lacking skills or knowledge in some area, or that it would require equipment I don’t have, and that I would have to alter my project so that it fits within my time and budget constraints, this project doesn’t look appealing anymore. I rather wouldn’t do it at all, than compromise.
This is sad, because a lot of my projects have never seen the light of day, and perhaps they could have if I was willing to look for a solution that was more viable.
There’s also another problem.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend, and he asked me:
“If you had the resources you needed, what would you love to do?”
I said the following:
I have plenty of ideas for projects, but they’re too complex for me to do them entirely on my own. I would need to cooperate with other people who have complementary skills.
I have my own vision for the project, and this is something I’m not willing to compromise. When you work in a team, you have to compromise something. And to me, it’s not worth it to change my original vision in order to make the project more attractive to others who would collaborate with me.
So the only solution that remains is to hire people to do things I can’t do on my own, under my art direction so that the end result is completely aligned with my vision.
I don’t see myself collaborating with other people on a project that I myself have invented, unless these people are completely OK with following my direction on every single detail. And since I’ve been in a position where other people have managed every single detail I had to implement, I know how horrible an experience that is for a creative person, and so it’s almost impossible anyone would enjoy that. I’d make a horrible manager.
I don’t trust others with my baby
When explaining this to my friend, I said that to me, bringing your vision of a project to a team feels a bit like bringing a baby you gave birth to and saying, “Hey guys, I need some help raising this baby, would you guys help me out?” Of course, every good parent would be very critical of other people’s attempts at raising this child – because it’s their child.
To me, my personal project – a vision I was inspired with – feels like my own child. (I don’t have a human child, so I can’t claim my comparison is accurate. I’m just trying to illustrate how precious my personal projects feel to me.)
I can’t just hand over my baby into the hands of strangers and hope for the best. I would give through, detailed instructions what, when and how needs to happen, to make sure everything that happens is aligned with my values. I’d want them to do exactly what I would do, if I had the means to do it.
I realized that this is a huge detriment to my dreams, and at this current moment I don’t feel capable of addressing it. Frankly, I don’t see myself being able to accept whatever happens, and collaborate with people in making something that we’re all be satisfied with in the end, if the idea came from me. I’m very skeptical of it and I don’t trust other people enough for it to happen.
On the positive side, it’s great to be independent and resourceful, but the downside is I don’t know what to do when I envision a project that’s simply too big for one person.
This is something that may need to change in the future. But at the moment, it’s one of my biggest stumbling blocks.
I just wanted to share this because I’m probably not the only one to feel this way. And because I’m trying to break the annoying myth of “Nela has everything figured out”, that I just can’t live up to.
Do you have a similar problem? Did you solve it, and can you share any tips? I’d love to hear about it.
[EDIT October 2016] I have come to terms with the fact that maybe perfectionism isn’t all bad. Oh well.
About Nela Dunato
Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.
On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...
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