Are you making perfect mistakes?

by | Jun 13, 2018 | Cate, Creativity

Hello Creative QB’s,

3 minute read

Some of the worlds greatest discoveries came about because of a simple mistake; the microwave, superglue, teflon and even the pacemaker- all came about because of a creative process that was ‘stuffed up’, and even though these were all positive outcomes, the real failures, the complete flops, lead to something greater. It is entirely possible that the mistake itself leads to the perfect outcome.

Perfectionism is a close acquaintance of mine, but not one I warmly welcome. I struggle daily with completing tasks to an unsustainable high standard. It is frustrating, drives my husband completely insane and often results in nothing getting done at all. I have a fear that is embedded in not achieving the standard of completion that my brain is hard wired to seek and deliver.

In a creative sense, I always associated my maddening perfectionism with being counter productive. But as I delve deeper into understanding what drives me creatively, I am beginning to understand that there is a method to my madness.

At a recent workshop I attended for work that focused on giftedness in students, there was a discussion surrounding the varying degrees of perfectionism that people can present with. It was here I discovered that being a perfectionist doesn’t have to be detrimental. It isn’t getting something right the first time- it is actually persevering through your mistakes until you do have it right. Being self-critical, but in a way that leads to a desire to better ourselves. That’s not a bad thing. The real baddie is the other type of perfectionism- the dysfunctional kind where there is no room for mistake making, where we are overly critical of ourselves, can become neurotic and have a tendency to procrastinate or avoid tasks altogether.

When it comes to creative process, I sway between the two. In fact, I find it extremely difficult not to be fearful of making mistakes. Fear is a challenging factor in my creative world. If I am ever slow to start a project it is always out of fear. Even completed projects are self-criticised and re worked until I am finally happy to put them out there to the world. Being a self-reflective person, I’m always wondering what drives this fear. Somewhere along the line, I must have decided that a ‘mistake’ is something to avoid, that it means pain. My logic tells me this mindset is really rather ridiculous because if I look back at all of the greatest things I have ever learned, they have all been from making a mistake. It is this fear of making mistakes that pushes me over the edge of ‘healthy’ perfectionism into ‘dysfunctional’ perfectionism.

So how do I problem solve this? I am encouraging myself to become an expert at ‘stuffing up’. As a teacher, I encourage children to take risks, to explore their environment and to experiment. If everything was easy, and challenges were non existent, how could we possibly learn from any process we undertake. Some of the worlds greatest discoveries came about because of a simple mistake; the microwave, superglue, teflon and even the pacemaker- all came about because of a creative process that was ‘stuffed up’, and even though these were all positive outcomes, the real failures, the complete flops, lead to something greater.

If what Picasso said is correct, that all children are born artists, then why aren’t we all? Is it because we are all too fearful of making a mistake in this seemingly perfect world? Are we all on the slippery slope towards dysfunctional perfectionism as we strive to outwardly present to the world only versions of our perfect selves?

Perhaps instead of avoiding mistakes, we change our mindset. Let’s play, tinker, experiment, or practise creative risk taking. Even better, lets completely flip our mindset and start a creative revolution where mistakes are a sure path to creative success. Where mistakes can be a part of healthy perfectionism. It is entirely possible that the mistake itself leads to the perfect outcome. Perfectionism is not counter productive to creativity, It is a welcome friend in the creative process.

Happy mistake making
Cate ❤️

TOP TAKEAWAY’s

1. Perfectionism can support the creative process in the sense that you persevere to see a project through to completion.
2. Mistake making is part of the learning process and we shouldn’t be fearful of it.
3. Perfectionism doesn’t have to be detrimental. It isn’t getting something right the first time- it is actually persevering through your mistakes until you do have it right.
It is entirely possible that the mistake itself leads to the perfect outcome.

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