“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.” – Henry Van Dyke
Have you been thinking about creating something – a song, poem, book, blog or screenplay – but worry it won’t be perfect?
I talked with a woman who’s been working on her book for five years. When I asked why she hadn’t pulled the trigger on it yet, she gave a lot of reasons (she hadn’t had time because she’d been busy at work, she needed to take care of her mom who had gotten sick, she’d broken up with her boyfriend, etc.)
But what it really came down to was … doubts.
Doubts the book would succeed. Doubts that all the work would be worth it. Doubts about what other people would say or think.
I told her, “Perfectionism and procrastinating kill creativity. Put a date on the calendar. Until you do, your project will never get done. You’ll just keep coming up with reasons to put it aside.”
She said, “But how will I know when it’s ready?”
“You won’t. You just need to make a decision you’re going to get it out the door. You just need to get crystal clear that you’ll always regret it if you don’t finish it.”
I added, “My favorite line from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants was when she rushing to finish a skit in her first year at SNL and Lorne Michaels told her to wrap it up.
She protested, ‘But it’s not ready.’
Lorne laughed and said, ‘Tina, the show doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.’”
It’s time for you to pick an 11:30 for your project.
Because if you don’t, chances are your project will never get out the door.
Our bestselling authors at the Maui Writers Conference – from Frank McCourt to Carrie Fisher to Mitch Albom – didn’t agree on much, but they did agree that they’d still be working on their books if it weren’t for their publisher’s deadline.
We can always tweak things. We can always make our project better.
But creative work is better DONE than PERFECT. Because if you wait for it to be perfect, it will never get done.
I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes about perfectionism, procrastination and creative work.
You might want to review these, pick a favorite and post it where you can see it every day to remind yourself that, as Henry van Dyke said, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”
Your creative project – whether it’s a book, screenplay, poem, story or song – may not be the best; but it may be just what someone needs to see, hear, be reminded of THAT DAY.
1. “Procrastination is often misspelled as perfectionism.” – Pinterest post
2. “Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
3. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear. – Jack Canfield
4. “When perfectionism is driving … shame is always running shotgun.” – Brene Brown
5. “The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler
6. “Fear is boring.” – Olympia Dukakis
7. “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.” – poster in library
8. “May your choices be based on your hopes and not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela
9. “Don’t tell it like it is, tell it like you want it to be.” – Esther Hicks
10. “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” – John F. Kennedy
11. “You don’t have to be brave to be courageous.” – Sam Horn (more about that here)
12. “The only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve is fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho
13. “Your life expands or contracts in proportion to your courage.” – Anais Nin
14. “In any given moment, we have a choice is to step forward into growth or step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow
15. “I think writers are too worried it’s all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you.” – Asha Dornfest
16. “Thinking ‘Here goes nothing’ could be the start of everything.” – Drew Wagner
17. “What makes you different or weird – that’s your strength.” – Meryl Streep
18. “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” – Buddha
19. “I don’t think my story is over yet.” – Serena Williams
20. “Working hard for something you don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion.” – Simon Sinek
21. “You become what you believe.” – Oprah Winfrey
22. “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose is to give it away. – Pablo Picasso.
23. “Here’s a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you’re alive, it isn’t.” – Lauren Bacall
24. “Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” – Kahlil Gibran
25. “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” – Anne Lamott
26. Art enables us to to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton
Yes, getting your creative work out in the world can be scary. You know what’s scarier? Regret.
It’s time to pick a “11:30” to finish your work and get it out in the world – no matter what
The world needs more people willing to contribute their creativity.
We need to hear your song. Express yourself. Add to the symphony of life.