The Creative Lounge :: Perfection vs. Creativity – the Destructive Chemistry between the Two.

The Clue: “Perfectionist” not “Perfect”

The term is Perfectionist.
It isn’t Perfect.

As old as the quest for perfection is – if it had a success rate of even half-a-percent you’d expect hundreds of thousands of “perfects” around.
We don’t have this term simply because however hard we might toil, nothing that we end up doing is actually truly perfect. What we do may be perfect for you or me by our standards, yet among the 7.3 Billion who populate this world, there would be thousands who would find our perfect somewhat imperfect.

Closer and Closer but Never Quite There!

Perfection, I think, is like infinity. You keep trying to reach infinity, but you actually never do – because infinity is nothing but an extremely large number that we can’t fathom.

There are tomes written about Perfection and Perfectionists; I often see resumes where the candidates have indicated that they are perfectionists – some list it as one of their strengths, others feign humility by listing it as weakness while indicating subtly that it’s a “professional strength” that costs them their peace and hence they think of it as a “personal weakness.”
As a creative person, I believe that the idolization and worship of perfection goes way beyond the regular quantum of respect it deserves.

Perfection and Creativity - the Dynamics - Perfection kills creativity.

Perfection and Creativity Don’t Mix?

As a person who has spent a couple of decades decoding personalities and interacting with some very intelligent young and middling men and women in my programs, I believe that when we begin to pursue perfection, we not only set ourselves impossible tasks, we also bid farewell to creativity. And those who’ve walked the creative path before us are quite aware of it – or why the writer and the editor are two different people? Why the best training designer is usually not the best trainer? Because writing doesn’t require perfection – it requires creativity, while editing needs perfection and because training design needs a mind that comes of with new ideas without experiencing the fear of going wrong – and a trainer attempts to chase “perfection” in her verbal communication and body language.
I do believe that some professions are best served through a single-minded pursuit of perfection – but if your job requires you to be creative – you must let go of you desire to be right every time.

A perfectionist is an illusionist who makes his or her own illusion and then chases it in a circle.  – SRA

Why Perfection can be Anti-Creativity?

When you become a perfectionist you begin to fear imperfection and that destroys your courage to put your work out there.  You are chained by your fear that your work may have certain imperfections that would be noticed by others – and you go on checking and rechecking, testing and retesting…you are frantically trying to create the “perfect” piece, and because each recheck yields a tiny correction that you’d like to make, you find yourself despairing about whether or not the next check would turn up another…and another.
Your quest for perfection feeds not only upon your sanity, but your productivity, your efficiency, and worse still, your creativity. You can be creative only when you can run after your imagination faster than it does and rein it into your creative expression – and when you are running that fast, you can’t be worried about snapping a muscle or snagging your sleeve – you must pursue your ideas with single-minded devotion and create whatever you need to create.
This is why Creativity and Perfection are like Oil and Water – they don’t mix. This doesn’t mean that the same individual can’t be a creative person as well as a perfectionist. They can be – but not at the same time and not about the same thing.
Remember this when you settle down to create your next course/training program. Throw your desire to be a perfectionist right out of the window (Oh! The dustbin would be a better receptor. Recall “Swachh Bharat” and don’t litter.)