Music vs. Perfectionism

“You have to vomit all morning and then clean up at noon.”
– Ray Bradbury, on writing and creativity

Are you a perfectionist?

One lesson I’m continually learning as a composer is that quality does not equal perfection. Perfectionism stems from self-criticism, from the idea that our work just isn’t good enough. The question “Good enough for who?” rarely seems to get answered. It’s just a feeling of inadequacy that can destroy an idea before it even gets a chance to be heard.

Sometimes I`ll receive a musical vision. The inspiration will happen and occaisonally I’ll be in perfect position to write it down. But before long I’ll feel the urge to revise by changing minute details. My analytical brain wants to be in charge! Many good ideas have been forgotten or censored this way.

How do you know if your idea is any good? Well, you don’t.That’s what a rewrite is for. When you start a project, write like you have no more time on earth to do it. Just let it out so you can see it in all its messiness! Get the whole thing out, and only then go back and rewrite. Make a mess and clean up later.

A great resource that changed my thoughts on perfectionism is the book Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. He gives perfectionism a name (Resistance) and encourages us to fight against it.

That fact that you are trying to get better at your craft means you already have above-average taste. So trust your instincts and scribble something down. Act first, think later.

2 thoughts on “Music vs. Perfectionism”

  1. Love this blog, Dave!

    Every word of it is true.
    I love how author, Stephen Pressfield, gives perfectionism a name “resistance”.

    I’ve started telling adult students that I’m a “recovering perfectionist”. 🙂


  2. Recovering perfectionist… that term applies to me too. There are always relapses but it is good to know what you are working against.

    Thanks for the comment!


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