How to Destroy Your Perfectionism and Get Things Done
Wisdom from the Wheezy Waiter
Are you a slave to your own perfectionism? Does it cause you untold grief by stopping projects mid-stream because it doesn’t measure up to it’s expectations? Does it prevent you from getting started at all? If so, I recommend you watch Wheezy Waiter’s latest post on YouTube. It’s entitled “I Destroyed my Perfectionism by Writing a Song Every Day for a Month.” It came about because Wheezy (AKA Craig) noticed that in the past if he felt a song coming on his first impulse would be to sit around and think about it. What did he want it to sound like, what are the lyrics going to be, etc. But in the end he found all that thinking would lead to a whole lotta nuthin.’
Craig was inspired by another YouTuber, Jonathan Mann, who has been writing a song and putting it up on YouTube everyday for ten years! Jonathan even holds the world record for “Most Consecutive Days Writing a Song” and at the time Craig spoke to him he had written nearly 4500 of them. They talked about the appeal of daily songwriting and what it taught them. An important factor in being able to consistently do this task, they discovered, was to be able to sometimes “phone it in.” And not care if it wasn’t their personal best. A bit ego deflating as Craig pointed out but by doing this they found that their perfectionism was cut off at the knees. The compulsion to get the song done supplanted that other compulsion of making it perfect first. Isn’t there a saying that says the perfect is the enemy of the good enough? No? There should be. There is a strong urge for those who suffer from this malady to park things to the side when the going gets rough and say you’ll swing back around to it later. Problem is later rarely comes and your room, computer, pockets are filled with lonely, lovely beginnings that never quite made it all the way home.
Nuts and Bolts
Another discovery was that it took the mystique out of songwriting. Craig stopped waiting for the muse to show up and whisper in his ear. He then became more like a workman at the workbench doing work. Toiling, repeatedly doing something creates a repertoire of stuff you’ve labored over. And there’s nothing to stop you from circling back later and working on a lick or phrase you really liked to write a better song around it. That way you’re not starting completely from scratch. Professional songwriters probably already know this. When hired to write something for someone they don’t have the luxury of sitting around waiting for a lightning bolt to hit them as they stare at a blank slate. The more Craig wrote songs he realized that, yes, he can write songs whenever he felt like it. And the more he did it the less intimidating it became.
This challenge to one’s own creative output is very appealing. Rather than waiting for enough inspiration, just get to work. If you have to manufacture a self-imposed deadline to force yourself to complete something then do that. Do it daily. Learn how to be a maker of things not a thinker thinking about making things. And don’t wait for that elusive, will-o’-the-wisp muse to alight your shoulder. That’s like being dependent on a flaky and unreliable (though highly desirable I admit) life of the party to appear. You want them to be there but it’s always on their terms so maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Either way you best believe the show must go on. And if it takes a little longer to get the party started without them, so be it. Just keep on hacking away till you no longer are one.
May this quote that Jonathan Mann shared on his channel inspire you:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased . . .
No satisfaction whatever at any time . . . There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”