Don’t Let the Idea of ‘Perfection’ Stop You From Sharing Your Art

Are you an artist who struggles with releasing your work to the world because it’s not yet perfect? It’s a common problem many creatives grapple with, but learning to let go of your idea of perfection can actually allow you to move closer toward it.

This topic recently came up in a conversation on The Always Sunny Podcast in which the cast of the popular American sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia sat down to chat with renowned American songwriter, actor, playwright, and filmmaker Lin-Manuel Miranda.

At 51:30 of the nearly 1.5-hour podcast episode (warning: there’s some profanity), the group has a conversation about their creative process.

“I love a deadline,” Miranda says. “That’s, what I love and when I’m working on something to know that we’re gonna meet about what I write every week, that’s the best way for me to get anything done.”

The creator of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton then revealed that the opening song of the show took him a few months to write and that the second song took him a full year. It was only when director Thomas Kail imposed a deadline that Miranda began chipping away and making substantial progress.

He eventually wrote 11 songs in 7 months.

Always Sunny creator, writer, and actor Rob McElhenney then chimed in with encouraging thoughts about the idea of “iteration” in art creation.

“I think this is a great lesson for young artists and people who are trying to get into creating anything, is the idea of iteration,” McElhenney says. “We talk about this quite a bit, which is oftentimes people are afraid to put out, to show people what it is that they’re working on at early stages, ’cause they wanna perfect it, not realizing that there is no perfection.

“So much a part of any collaborative art is to get other people’s opinions and if you don’t have either an external party who’s putting on that limitation or those guardrails of saying, ‘we need it by this date,’ then you have to do it internally and just say, ‘look, by this date, I’m gonna show it to people.’

“That’s not a failure if someone says, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good, but what if you tried this? Or what if you tried that?’ That’s all a part of the process.”

“Even the people who are the greatest in the world at it, like to hear that, I think like an audience member to hear that, that you [Miranda] also fear that and also will sit down yet at an early stage and show it to somebody and take notes, I think is really inspiring.”

There are a few main reasons why an artist might struggle with working on their art for too long before releasing it (which may result in them never releasing it at all).

1. Perfectionism: Artists can typically be perfectionists and will never believe that a work of art meets that high standard. Thus, it never gets shared.

2. Fear of criticism: Along those same lines, an artist might be worried that their work will be criticized by others and they will thus hesitate to share it.

3. A desire to improve: Many artists might not consider a project one that is actually complete and will instead continue to improve or refine it over time, endlessly.

4. A need to be authentic: Some might believe that their work doesn’t come across as authentic, which then will tie back to the fear of criticism and the desire to make a perfect work of art.

Overall, while each of these feelings are slightly different, they all circle around an artist’s desire to create a work of art that is perfect and impossible to criticize. This is, of course, impossible. What results instead is a spiral of stress and anxiety that prevents an artist from ever showing their work.

If you try to perfect your creation in your head, you risk having it be stuck there forever. To break out of this cycle, artists should try and give themselves a deadline, work as hard as they can up until that point, and then release the project while being open to criticism. Doing so will help you improve, grow, and become more creative heading into the next project.

Image credits: Photos from 123RF