“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
~ Mohandas Gandhi
I was thinking recently about how I have always been a procrastinator, and I started wondering about what it is that makes us put things off, even the things that we really want to do.
Ever since I started painting (around 7 years ago), I have always had a resistance around actually starting a new painting. I love painting, and I want to paint more often, but I still manage to find reasons to put it off.
Only the Best Will Do
Having read an article by Steve Pavlina entitled Overcoming Procrastination, I have come to believe that the main reason for my procrastination is based on a fear that the painting won’t turn out as good as I would like. In other words, I’m a perfectionist, and the idea that I might create something less than perfect is sometimes enough to put me off trying.
So instead of actually painting, I will spend time reading instructional art books, or watching video tutorials, in the hope that I will find the magic formula that will enable me to create a perfect painting next time.
Of course, this doesn’t get me very far. Knowledge alone is not enough to become a skilled painter.
“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”
~ Eugene Delacroix
Reading vs. Doing
You can’t learn to speak a foreign language by listening to CDs. You can’t learn a martial art by watching kung fu movies. And you can’t learn to paint by reading about how Da Vinci painted.
The only way to master a skill is by regular practice, even if that means making bad stuff. As Caleb Wojcik says in that article from Expert Enough, there are no shortcuts. The only way to get good at something is to do it over and over again. When you’re learning a skill, you can’t afford to be a perfectionist, or you will never get anything done.
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
~ Bruce Lee
If you spend two hours painting, and it turns out horrible, that’s ok, you don’t have to show it to anyone, and you will have learned way more than if you spent two hours reading ‘Oil Painting for Dummies’.
For Your Eyes Only
To help overcome perfectionism, you can set aside a chunk of time where whatever you create is strictly for practice only, and you have no intention of ever showing it to anyone.
That way you don’t need to worry about your painting being less than perfect because nobody but you is ever going to see it.
Find the Right Balance
All of this is not to say that reading and learning is a waste of time.
Obviously if you learn a bit about colour theory, then it will make your practice so much easier, because you will have some idea of how the colours will affect each other when you mix them together.
You just need to find a healthy balance between acquiring knowledge and putting that knowledge into practice.
Read books and watch tutorials when you have time, but make sure you are spending more time practicing than learning.
So the next time you find your perfectionism holding you back, get out your paints (or whatever tools you use), and make the decision to create something, even if it turns out horrible. Hey, at least you’ll have something to look back on in future to see how much you’ve improved!
If you need more help with perfectionism, try these 5 simple tips from Alejandro Reyes.
Do you ever suffer from perfectionism? Do you have any techniques that you use to overcome it? Please tell us about them in the comments below.