Reading Time: 4 minutes
Written by: Amy Shaw
Perfectionism is extremely common among creative people. For those who have refined their craft and creativity, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of obsessing over making the perfect art, whether that be a piece of artwork, a book or of course, a song. Part of an artist’s talent relies upon their ability to obsess over details in order to create the perfect track, but how far is too far? When does obsession cross the line from healthy to unhealthy, from productive to counterproductive?
Perfectionists have a great deal of motivation and work hard to ensure that everything they produce is as good as it can possibly be. This is an asset for artists as it allows them to create tracks that reach their fullest potential. Without a degree of perfectionism, artists would struggle to adapt a track to make it the best that it can be. On the flipside, this desire for perfection can be dangerous as becoming too obsessive can kill an artist’s creativity and become a block on ideas. When you become too wrapped up in the idea that your current projects are not good enough, it can leave you paralysed by self-doubt and uninspired. By becoming your own harshest critic, you limit yourself and your insecurity becomes a weighing factor, holding you back from creating true art.
When you overthink and apply perfectionism to your work, you end up in a state of procrastination where very little is achieved at all. It is incredibly easy to slip into a loop of obsessing over a single sound in one of your tracks. In situations like this, often you won’t realise just how much time you are wasting until it’s too late. But how will you know if you’re being hindered by perfectionism? There are many ways to spot this, think about whether you’ve been left wondering where to start, in fear of failure, or in fear of not being able to top your last success. All of these feelings usually originate with an unhealthy perfectionism and can be unhelpful symptoms of an on-going problem. But how do you overcome this state of mind and improve your mentality?
By embracing the imperfection of your work you’ll find it much easier to be productive and move forward with your projects. Is any song ever really perfect? By overcoming your fear of failure, you’ll be able to grow as an artist and your creativity will improve as a result, benefitting your career and brand in the long run. As humans, we often hold ourselves to standards that are far too high. By looking at your situation from a new perspective and realising that you are being overly harsh, you will be much better able to understand your perfectionism. Instead, focus on all the aspects of your work that are worth celebrating rather than the flaws that you usually obsess over. Take time to think about how far you’ve come as an artist, listen to some of your earliest productions. By looking at how far you’ve come, you will realise just how much you have to celebrate rather than criticise.
If you’ve been holding out on sharing your new music with close friends over the fear that it is not yet good enough, now is the time to accept that with this mindset, you may never feel ready to share it. Take the plunge and share your brand new track with someone close to you, ask for their feedback. Even though doing this may make you feel vulnerable, it is an important step to take as an artist. By sharing your new track without really being ready, this new vulnerability will be a great opportunity to receive an outsider’s perspective, aiding you to improve your work. Often, tweaking a brand new song over and over can actually destroy its magic rather than improving it. By reaching out to somebody who has not listened to the song 1000 times, you will get a much more real perspective.
Often, artists that get overcome by their own perfectionism do so because they are too often comparing themselves to fellow artists. It is important to remember that your career is your own and everybody is different. Just because another artist is slightly better at an aspect of production, doesn’t mean that you should let this affect your motivation. You will often find that there are other aspects of production in which you exceed their level of expertise. You may find that there are other producers out there who are impressed with your style and was desperately trying to match your talent. While looking up to other artists is healthy, obsessing over your failings and their successes is unhealthy. It may limit your growth creatively and leave you stuck without motivation.
In order to really overcome perfectionism, remember that the perfect track does not really exist. While obviously there are aspects of production that can measure an artist’s talent, generally music is subjective. Perfect tracks do not exist because there will simply always be something that can be changed and re-changed in order to make the overall product better. Even some of the most iconic songs in history probably include aspects that the artist would like to go back and change if they had the chance. Every track has its flaws, appreciate your art for what it is rather than striving for a level of perfection that does not actually exist.