Breathe life into your art and then release it.
I was talking to a fellow creator today about the risks of getting too close to your work. All creators form a bond with their creations. You have to feel something for your work in order to pull creativity from an authentic place, but there comes a time when you need to detach from your art. You need to cut ties and let it fly free. When the work is done, kick that art out the door and make room for a new creative cycle.
When you find yourself obsessing over every detail, reworking a single piece of art, or seeking countless outside opinions–your work is becoming too precious and it will be the creative death of you. That art is too needy and it will drive you insane if you fixate on what you could change.
You might be thinking, “But Kelly, shouldn’t I dedicate my love and energy to my work?!”
Yes–you should–but not all of it. A little love is good. Giving all your love and energy to a single creative project is irresponsible. Everything you create will allow space for improvement, evolution, and growth, but each individual project has finite growth potential.
If you spend your lifetime writing a single novel that you rewrote 50 times until you got it just right, then you will have wasted years of energy that could have brought 50 other novels to life.
You have to settle for “complete” and not “perfect”.
What are the risks of your work being to precious?
It’s harder to start new projects.
If you never finish the piece you’ve dedicated all of your energy to, you will never start anything new. If this doesn’t bother you, then by all means, keep that precious mentality. Though, if you want to carve out a path to a professional creative career, you need to produce. You need to grow and evolve. Each new project is an opportunity to improve upon the last work of art.
It’s harder to hear criticism.
If you create one piece of art, it’s easy to feel emotionally bonded to it. When you hear negative feedback, it’s like an attack on your sense of self. Someone is critiquing an extension of you. They aren’t actually, but when you’re work is too precious, it definitely feels like that.
All of you creative eggs are in that single art basket. Don’t let your art have that much power over you. It isn’t a part of you anymore. Yes, you created it, but you have to detach from it. Once you send it out into the world, it’s on its own. The more art you push out the door, the more you’ll detach.
It’s harder to abandon something that isn’t working.
Look, I get it. You’ve put all of your energy into a huge project, and you can’t even fathom the idea of it failing–but it might fail–and you have to be okay with that. You have to be willing to move on for the sake of your sanity. When your art is too precious, abandoning it seems like betrayal.
That’s how you know it’s time to walk away. Betray the art. Move on to something new.
Time’s a wastin’.
What should you do if you’re work has become too precious?
I’ve been here. There’s no shame in the overly precious art game. But now that you’re aware of it, you have an opportunity to change.
Walk away. Get distance.
Once I lose the flow in a work of art or writing, and suddenly my momentum screeches to a painfully critical halt, I toss that creation in my dud pile. I leave it for another day. A day where I might have a different perspective.
Some of those works get attention in the future, and some get scrapped entirely if time didn’t help. The important thing is that you have the ability to walk away.
Start something new.
Once you walk away from something that became too precious, immediately pour your energy into a new project. I split my time between writing and art. Writing requires more labor and I have a tendency of getting too close to that work, so I write a little and then walk away and start a batch of new paintings.
When I get stuck on one, I move to another. When writer’s block hits, I paint. When my hands get tired or paint needs to dry, I write.
Keep the momentum going and spread your creative energy around to multiple projects.
Focus on quantity over perfect quality.
Your work will never be perfect. It will be good enough. It will be complete. It will be ready for the world to see. But it will never be perfect. Ever.
Don’t get obsessed with a single piece of art. View your creative life as a whole. Fill the years with as many imperfect works of art that you can, because you will become a better artist as a result. You will create more opportunities, discover more about yourself, and increase your odds of success by being a prolific creator.
Now, abandon that precious, energy sucking, needy work of art that is torturing you. You can’t give it the perfection it demands. That will take all the heart out of it.
(Need more convincing? I highly suggest this helpful piece by The Oatmeal. Kill your darlings.)
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