Vanessa Turner - Artist & Coach

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The Hidden Dangers of Perfectionism

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Let’s chat about The Artist Success Recipe. In the recipe for success, there is one ingredient which I see artists adding in repeatedly, day after day. And that ingredient is perfectionism. 

It can show up in many ways: Perhaps you find yourself resistant and hesitant to call an art piece finished, hesitant to share it with the world, because it doesn’t seem ‘good enough’.

Perhaps you have a tendency to keep tweaking, editing, redoing certain sections etc. But between you and I, we both know that the easiest way to become unhappy with your artwork is to overwork it and overthink it… 

And the thing is, we all struggle with this to varying degrees.

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Perfectionism is a terrible habit and I’m popping in to remind you that it will ruin your art career! Instead of it being a form of encouragement it will become a source of discouragement. It will steal your motivation, stop you from even trying, leave you feeling disheartened, exhausted and inadequate!

As you probably already know, it is difficult to move forward with a mind full of self-doubt. When your mind is busy circling with negative thoughts, your creativity enters a state of paralysis… so you have a tendency to create nothing.

But perfectionism doesn’t haven’t to be a roadblock in your artist’s journey. 

Here are 3 strategies to help you regain control and experience the growth your passion deserves.

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3 Strategies to Stop Perfectionism from Ruining Your Art Career

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Strategy No. 1 – Stop Waiting for Ideal Conditions

Are you always wanting ‘better’ before you start—better space, better lighting, better supplies, better ideas, better opportunities?

Are you hesitant to get started because you are scared you might fail. Honey, believe me, I get it! 

But by waiting until everything is just right, you feel like you have a better chance at succeeding. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Because the thing that makes you better is ‘practice’. So by not starting, you’re actually denying yourself the opportunity to become better.

When you catch yourself feeling hesitant to get started, push yourself to begin anyways. – Try the 15 minute rule! 

Start something! Keep at it for 15min. If after 15min you still wish to stop then that’s fine you may do so. You attempted, and that’s what matters. But more often than not, that 15min will stretch into a longer period of time with ease because the fear of starting has eased. As one of my clients often said “Once I start, the pressure is off”.

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Strategy No. 2 – Call it Finished & Move On

Yes, there will always be “one more thing” you want to change. The more you add and tweak, the closer to perfection you think you’ll be. But, be careful! You may make so many changes that you overwork the art piece.

It can happen quickly, before you realize it! All is going well and then suddenly you’ve taken your artwork to a place of non-recovery and it’s no longer what you envisioned.

Practice accepting where you are currently with your work. Call it finished! Take the lessons learned and move on to the next piece. You are that much closer to mastery.

Call it finished and move on!

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Strategy No. 3 – Accept the Gap

How often do you create something that you don’t like? And how often do you compare your work to that of others – and then subsequently come to the conclusion that your work isn’t good enough?

Naturally, as artists we focus heavily on what we want our art to look like. But there is a gap between where we are now and where we want to be. Our current skill level isn’t yet in line with our ambition (Totally normal! That’s what causes us to strive for better).

But!! We focus on this gap so much that we unravel our artistic confidence and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Yes, you will fail at times to meet your expectations — Perfectionism won’t serve you here. 

As I always tell artists, your failures, the art pieces which you deemed to be unsuccessful actually have the greatest  value. They teach you lessons, and it is those lessons that enable you to create the successes, they are what enable you to create your masterpieces and close the gap.

So don’t let perfectionism lead you to cease creating, embrace the gap and keep moving forward.

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Regain Your Power

Print out these 3 reminders and post them in your studio space.

Perfectionism doesn’t have to be a cloud over your art and business.
You have the ability to regain your power, by being intentional and patient.
Your beautiful imperfections are all part of the journey!

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