Thinking About Creativity and Perfectionism

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about creative output.

I just started following Youtuber Francesca Georgiou a few weeks ago and a couple days ago she posted a video about why she hasn’t posted a video recently. Yeah, I know, small Youtubers (and Fran is definitely a small Youtuber) post these kinds of apology/promise videos all the time. But Fran talks openly about the perfectionist loop of thinking that prevents her from producing content. If she can’t make it good, she won’t make it at all, and this can feed on itself for a long time. Fran’s definitely not the first Youtuber to talk about this (I remember Charlie McDonnell’s famous black and white video about how he felt about his content, Rosianna Halse Rojas talks a lot about creativity and producing content), but she’s what put the topic in the forefront of my mind this week.

Then today, comedian Gaby Dunn tweeted about gender differences in how people produce their creative work. She posted a screenshot of a text conversation she was having with a friend:

gaby dunn twitter

This was surprising to me: my expectation would be that women would be more prone to perfectionist tendencies. But maybe men have the arrogance confidence to put all their eggs in one Jonathan Franzen shaped basket while women need some insurance. And while men are agonizing over every line in a script that might never get bought, women creators across the Internet are busy writing and filming and developing an audience (and sometimes a living) from content that might not be perfect but is at least out there.

I like to remind myself of Sturgeon’s law: ninety percent of everything is crap. And if you only produce ten things total, you have only one good thing. But women are vlogging every day, writing and creating every day: they’ve upped their chances significantly for creating a good thing. No, you cannot just produce produce produce and expect some of it to be good. But you also cannot expect to get better without producing, editing, receiving feedback, and making more again. As Gaby tweets, “Can’t move to the next, maybe better thing if you never put out the 1st thing.”

I’ve never considered myself a creative person or someone in the creative field; after all, I have a degree in economics and playing ten years of concert band clarinet did not make me the jazz improv great I once hoped. But since I consume all this media online, especially Youtubers and bloggers, I think about how these discussions of creative output and growth from putting things out there can help me in my time of transition. I have severe perfectionist tendencies when it comes to my job search – I cannot count I have closed out of job databases in a panic. But cover letters are a kind of writing and in order to get better at them (and have more people read them) I need to send them out. I need to send out a subpar cover letter if that means getting my application in before the deadline. I can’t be a Jonathan-wannabe agonizing in a basement, I need to be a girl with a Youtube channel, podcast, and stand-up act sending things out into the universe all the time.

Better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The platitudes sound sticky-sweet but hearing them re-worded from the mouths of my favorite creators makes them a easier to take to heart. Part of why I started this blog was to jump-start my system and make sure that I was creating something every day. Somehow it’s easier for me to start a cover letter if I know I’ve already finished a blog post. At most ten percent of these posts will be good – so I’ve got to keep writing to make that percentage worthwhile.

 

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