When we’re fixated on creating a perfect product, we often end up getting paralyzed instead. We end up getting stuck. Because it feels like every move isn’t the right one. So we hesitate. The page remains blank, or includes several unsatisfying sentences, and we’re bombarded by a flurry of thoughts: This is terrible! This is utter crap. I’ll never get it published. Obviously, I’m an amateur. Why did I think I could do this in the first place? I’m a moron.
Eventually, after staring at the screen or our notebook, we quit.
However, that’s when it’s vital to keep going. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, that’s when it’s vital to keep working. Keep working regularly. Refocus your energy on quantity, and forget quality (at least for now). Instead of judging, berating and dismissing your work, refocus on producing. Write. Write. Write. Tell your inner critic to take five.
Another vital strategy is to get messy. Practice getting very messy. Because when we get messy in one area of our creative work, that sense of play, flow and freedom will trickle over into other areas of our creative work.
What does it mean to get messy?
It can mean making a literal mess: hands dirty and dripping with paint. Or it can simply mean having fun and adopting a more playful, lighter attitude and approach. After all, the antidote to perfectionism is play.
Below are 10 ways you can get messy, in all senses of the word:
- Use your hands to paint anything. And anything can be trees or smiley faces or fruit or a self-portrait. Or it can be blobs of paint. It simply depends on what feels good and fun to you.
- Make silly faces or silly animals with Play-Doh.
- Write a poem about an inside joke that rhymes.
- Write a short description of a new character from your new novel who hails from a newly discovered planet.
- Every morning spend 5 minutes drawing what you remember from the previous night’s dream.
- Work with only glitter and glue.
- Gather random items around your house—cotton balls, toothpicks, candy wrappers, buttons, bottle caps—and use them to create a 3-dimensional work of (silly) art.
- Take a walk and collect natural objects like leaves, sticks, pinecones. Use them in an unexpected way.
- Grab a dictionary, and use the example sentences to spin a surprising, silly, dramatic or mysterious story, like this one: “Forty years, there or thereabouts, have elapsed. My date isn’t going to show, it seems.”
- Jot down five things that pop into your mind when you think about making a mess. Do them this week.
Getting messy helps us to get out of our rigid, narrow mindset. It helps us to get out of our minds—out of the ruminating, the second-guessing—and into our bodies. Which means we feel freer and more relaxed. We are able to literally move forward, which is exactly what we need to do with our work. (Plus, working with our hands helps us work through our emotions.)
Getting messy reminds us of the magic of making. It puts us in a playful mood, which is actually the perfect environment for creativity to bloom.