Firestarter Friday: When Aiming for Perfection Prevents Action

12 07 2013 ff when perfect prevents action

That may not be the most inspiring title, but this will end up being a motivating article, I promise.

I am a planner in nearly every sense of the word. Not overly uptight or anal (from my perspective anyway), just prepared. I make a list for grocery shopping and packing for vacation. My Christmas notebook contains notes for every Christmas gift I have given since 2009, just so I don’t repeat. Overall, I like to plan just enough that my major bases are covered. Plus, if I write something down, it’s much easier to remember. Most of the time, this all works in my favor. Except when it comes to art.

There is something in my brain that must be set to self-destruct. When a really fun idea happens or I envision a really sweet painting, I have a tendency to ignore just jumping in and going with the flow. Instead, I plan it to death. I fill out goal worksheets and make to-do lists and read extensively about how to do something “right”. The level of supposed preparedness I sometimes reach would scare boy scouts. And it wouldn’t be a problem, except it frequently stops things from happening. I am a master of coming up with excuses for why I can’t do something right now. And my favorite reason is that I am not ready enough for my execution to be perfect. Here I am, nearly 30, knowing that perfect doesn’t exist, and I still keep heading after it in a very unhealthy way. So heading into the New Year (which coincides with my birthday), I need to change my perspective. I want to. I must.

Earlier this week, I finally (FINALLY) opened up my Etsy shop. And it happened because I finally shed all illusions about selling my work. I wanted to share with you thoughts that have been tripping me up for years. Maybe some of it sounds familiar to you.

1. I need to do this “right”. There is being prepared, and then there is using preparation as procrastination. I have read so many articles about SEO, setting prices, logos, packaging, networking, etcetera that I could probably count it as another college degree. My real degree in Environmental Design included classes that taught me how create brand identity, and took those lesson to heart. I didn’t want to start selling my work until I had the perfect package: punchy logo, unique business cards and a seller biography that makes everyone want to be my best friend. After all I paid money to get a degree that trained me to do just that.
Reality check: I will never get everything 100% right before selling my work. I need to get the basics down and learn and build as I go.

2. I need to have the time. Yes, I do need time to create something. Time is needed to figure out pricing and list an item. And time is used to package and mail something out. Applying to galleries doesn’t just happen out of thin air. So I was always waiting. Waiting until I had more space to create. Waiting until my daughter was a bit older. Then waiting until my son was a bit older.
Reality check: I need to make time, not wait for it to happen.

3. My support system needed to be better. Expectations of more feedback from friends and family was really bogging me down. For one thing, I am not even remotely on the same page with a lot of people close to me about what art could be in my life. Some of the people I love think the things I create are just a cute hobby and selling art is for “serious” artists. It has also been said to me flat-out that I need to remember to maintain a “real job”.
Reality check: A good support system needs to happen mostly organically. You can’t force people to be interested in what you are doing. Either they are or they aren’t. And you really can’t force them to believe in you. The most you can realistically do is show interest in what others are passionate about and keep them abreast to what is going on with you. The people who have genuine interest in what you want to do will make themselves known.

4. My work isn’t good enough. I always feel like when someone says they like something of mine, they are just placating me. Sometimes that may be true, after all, not everyone likes the same stuff. But looking at some statements objectively, I know that is not always true. When an old friend goes out of the way to mention something I made them 14 years ago (really happened), that is real gratitude.
Reality check: I pour my heart into my work, and I know it. There is no way I can please everyone all the time, so I should create with love. As long as I do that, my care will show and I will know it’s good enough.

So here I am, one week into finally getting gutsy and setting up shop. My little corner of the creative world has been seen by a dozen people. Am I going to make millions? Hell no. Will I sell a piece of jewelry or a painting? Possibly. All I know now is I am not perfect, but I am trying, and that’s a great place to be.


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