Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler

This week I’m rerunning my series on perfectionism, which struck quite a chord with readers last year. Here’s the first installment:

I currently have a half-written blog post about perfectionism and its destructive effect on creativity. For some reason, every time I get back to it, I’m interrupted…hmmm…there’s that stressful life making things difficult again…

Until I can finish up what I have to say about the evils of perfectionism, I’m going to share a few words of wisdom on the topic from other creative people:

“A lot of disappointed people have been left standing on the street corner waiting for the bus marked Perfection.” —Donald Kennedy path on peat moor

“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.”
—Julia Cameron

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
—Anna Quindlen

“The maxim ‘Nothing but perfection’ may be spelled ‘Paralysis’.”
—Winston Churchill

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
—Salvador Dali

“An artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”
—Eugene Delacroix

“Perfectionism is the enemy of creation…” —John Updike


14 Responses to “Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler”

  1. 1 Heather October 24, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Perfect:) I love the paralysis quote- it is so true. Every time I get stuck and blocked it is due to perfectionism. One day I wont worry so much- maybe I’ll make that today.

    • 2 stranglingmymuse October 24, 2010 at 4:02 pm

      I can relate, Heather. Perfectionism is my biggest creative block. (Though it can sneakily masquerade as procrastination — or paralysis!)

      I hope you do make it today! And every day. I think recovering from perfectionism is one of those one-day-at-a-time things, actually.

      Best of luck to you, Heather!


  2. 3 writesprite October 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I can see why it struck a nerve or two!

    RE: “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.”

    Ain’t it the truth! Crippling at times! Obviously we are in good company with this opinion. Thanks for sharing! I feel a lot better. I’m never good enough. Sigh. That will strangle anyone’s muse, won’t it?

    • 4 stranglingmymuse October 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm

      That Julia Cameron quote really speaks to me too, Evelyn! I’m glad these quotes made you feel better. And you ARE good enough!!


  3. 5 naperie October 25, 2010 at 3:36 am

    This struck a chord. Striving for perfection seems to be something that we all absorb from an early age and then have to spend years unlearning in order to be able to release our inner selves. Not just in our creative life. We’re conditioned to judge ourselves not on our own merit and potential but through the reflected judgement of others. The unlearning of all of that can be a hard journey.

    I loved the quotes. Looking forward to the full post.


    • 6 stranglingmymuse October 26, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      Glad you love these quotes as much as I do, Fiona. It probably wouldn’t hurt to read them every day! I’ve posted the second part of this series today — and there will be two more after that. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. By the way, I checked out your blog. Beautiful!


  4. 7 K a b l o o e y October 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    It’s funny, since I started blogging, this has become less of an issue for me. (Guess that’s evident in my fairly slapdash blog.) I used to be plagued by these perfectionist/judgy/procrastinatory habits when trying to write other things, but besides the omnipresent procrastination, I do seem to cut myself a break when blogging. Fewer expectations lead to a less fraught experience for me.

    • 8 stranglingmymuse October 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm

      That’s fantastic, Kablooey! There is something about the immediacy of blogging that allows us to loosen our unrealistically high expectations a bit, isn’t there? I’m very happy for you!


  5. 9 crazygoangirl October 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Love the Anna Quindlen & Dali quotes.

    I’m a great one for procrastinating…not only in writing but in a lot of other stuff in Life, making decisions for example. It’s a family trait. Am also an eternal optimist though…and anyway you look at it, that’s a dangerous combination…a sure-fire recipe for an everlasting vicious cycle!

    • 10 stranglingmymuse October 29, 2010 at 3:53 pm

      Well, as you wrote on another post, perfectionism and procrastination do go hand-in-hand. I’m working on doing what Anna Quindlen talks about here myself!

      Good luck with your writing, procrastination and life!


  6. 11 maryawrites October 29, 2010 at 1:31 am

    Lovely quotes. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  1. 1 Perfectionism « Joel's Self Publishing Trackback on November 1, 2010 at 4:25 am
  2. 2 Inspiration and Evolution: my blogging journey « Evie's Kitchen Trackback on November 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm

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