4 Tips to Overcome Art Block, Burnout, and Get More Motivation for Creative Perfectionists
Does the thought of planning your next art piece or project stop you from starting it in the first place? Does a need to perfect your idea keep you from actually getting things done? That might just be perfectionism creeping into your creative practice, and if left ignored, it can paralyze you and leave you with no work to show. Here are three ways I've learned to overcome this in order to actually finish artwork and get things done.
PERFECTIONISM AS AN EXCUSE TO PROCRASTINATE
Real talk, you might just be using the idea of perfection and creating something worthy as just a way to self-sabotage and play into your impostor syndrome, and you might not even realize it. I know I didn't. Then I really sat down and began to examine the main reason why I would find myself procrastinating on getting started on art and realized this was where I found myself getting hung up.
I'd spend days, sometimes weeks, planning entire projects, artworks, or the next step for my creative career. Meticulously mapping out every detail, overthinking to the max, making sure I had everything planned out. Whether it was Instagram strategy and planning my feed, writing out post captions, or updating my art on my shop or portfolio, I had to everything planned out. It had to be perfect. Eventually I realized that this over-planning was what was stopping me from starting to begin with, and after so long spent planning on what I was going to do, I had nothing to show except for burnout.
Staying in the comfort of planning rather than doing was my comfort zone, and it required me realizing that this endless quest for perfection in what I was doing was only making things worse and making me feel like I was falling behind. And when you feel like you've already fallen behind, that's when the impostor syndrome, the guilt, and the procrastination really start to build up and snowball on top of each other. Eventually something as simple as posting on Instagram seems like a daunting task. It's not, that's just the overthinking talking and trying to stop you from actually doing the thing.
Speaking from experience, don't get lost in your thoughts and don't let yourself get comfortable planning out everything without actually doing what you made all those plans for. Don't use perfectionism as an excuse to procrastinate, because it'll never be perfect if it is never done.
SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING
If you're also someone who lets overthinking or perfection procrastination stop you from starting a new artwork or project, try to take a step back and get out of your own way. Easier said than done, I know, but in these cases I've realized that my own inner critic allows me to be my own worst enemy. This is why when I find myself struggling to begin, I always try to remind myself of these two things:
Finished is better than perfect.
Something is better than nothing.
When we create art, when we type or write, paint or draw, put an idea on to a canvas or paper, we're bringing the idea to reality. We're getting out of our own way and getting those ideas out of our heads, on to a tangible level where other people are able to view it and see those ideas as well.
So when we find ourselves stuck or blocked, not only are we denying ourselves the gift of creation and committing an act of self-sabotage or betrayal, but we're denying the world of the potential good that our ideas can bring when they're brought to life. We're denying them the space to even have room for improvement because we don't even allow ourselves to give them space to exist.
We let ourselves get wrapped up in the pursuit of perfection or get in our own way whether with our ego, impostor syndrome, or judgement towards ourselves and abilities because they're not where we think we should be, and all it does is keep us stuck, down, or in our own heads.
So don't overthink it. Do what you can to step out of your own way and just allow the idea to exist. Whether it is as simple as a sketch or as complex as a painting, something is better than nothing.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
This idea I've heard of recently from Episode 329 of The Creative Pep Talk Podcast by Andy J. Pizza, originally by Tim Ferriss, has completely shifted my way that I've begun to approach my creative process and approach to my practice, problem-solving, and planning. It's a simple question but has some really deep insights once you really begin to think about it. The next time you're starting a new project, consider this:
"WHAT WOULD THIS LOOK LIKE IF IT WERE EASY?"
How can you make the process easier for yourself? How simply can you get a point or idea across? How can you work smarter, not harder? Imagining what this might look like if it were easy is a great way to make whatever it is you're about to do way less stressful, easier to navigate, and work through.
This can look like seeing how you can express an idea with just a few shapes or lines. Maybe it could look like utilizing projectors, tracing, referencing, or photobashing to streamline and simplify your process. Or just breaking up a big project into smaller, bite-sized and more manageable tasks that build upon each other. No matter what this might look like in your creative practice, think about this principle of keeping things simple, and don't be scared to make things easier for yourself if there are ways you can.
INCREASE YOUR ENERGY AND MOTIVATION WITH TASK STACKING
One of the hacks I've found that I've begun to use to nurture and grow motivation from energy in my creative practice is with task stacking. If you're like me and have a to-do list that tires you out just by looking at it, task stacking might be a helpful tool for you. With this method, we work with the way our brain functions in mind.
The human brain likes rewards. When we finish a task, we essentially reward ourselves in our brain with a shot of dopamine. Being able to cross a task, no matter how big or small, off of our to-do list feels good, and that dopamine works as a reward for our brain saying "good job!" to checkout off that box and say you finished something.
With this in mind, you can trick your brain into gradually over time being able to endure larger and bigger tasks that require more energy by slowly building up to them. Next time you have a long to-do list or a big project that is broken into smaller parts, try task stacking.
List your tasks or things you need to do not in priority (but keep priority in mind), but in the order of easiest to most difficult tasks to complete. Start with the small, easy tasks that are quick or simple to cross off. Over time, being able to cross off and complete each of those smaller tasks will build up those feel-good chemicals in your brain that give you the motivation and confidence in your ability to be able to work up to those larger, more daunting things you need to do. Try this out and see how it works for you! I'd love to hear if it makes a difference.
Hopefully there was something in here you found helpful to take and implement into your own approach with your artwork. Over time as I've picked up these insights and worked to incorporate them into my own thought and creative process, they really have helped, so definitely give at least one of them a try or think on it, and let me know your results! If this was helpful for you, consider bookmarking it or sharing it with a friend who might benefit as well.
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This blogpost was inspired by a reader request from a friend, fellow artist and creative freelancer, The Cosmic Artist. You can see some of his work here.
Until next time,