Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity – Part Two

Bird by Bird: Anne Lamott’s Timeless Advice on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity

pt 1 bird by bird

I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway.

pt 1 6 birds on a log in a row

My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.

But I also tell [my students] that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out. Writing this way is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.

Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.


pt 6 3 owls on a tree branch

5 thoughts on “Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity – Part Two

  1. Wow! You gave them the cold, hard truth. The thing is that wen you’re born to write everything else means little. I’ve always loved writing and storytelling, since I was a little girl. Once I began writing stories it was as if I was set free. I think a person is only truly happy when they’re doing what they were meant to do––even if it doesn’t make them rich. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree. What you do in life should bring the reward of joy and satisfaction. I have always been into the arts since little, also. Music and art were my first loves. Writing came early also. It took me awhile to realize I find writing and painting to be my way to express myself and I love music of most kinds. So much makes me excited. Writing stories. Thinking about the stories I want to tell, it fills me up. I am a born day dreamer. Money is not at all what I am looking for in the arts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “…but probably not peace of mind.” – reminded me of a Martha Graham quote that someone had paraphrased in a comment on some post, and so I looked up the her quote; I think it nicely related to what Lamott is expressing:

    “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • We must keep creating. I had a debate with my partner.T stole his story. Now I say, no one can tell a story like QT as no one can tell a story like Fitzgerald or Heminway or direct a film like Altman or Hitchcock. The imprint of originality scores in their ballpark. It is the same as your poetry or the poetry of Plath or Byron or Shakespeare etc. Subject may have similarities but only Shakespeare could have written some of my favorite plays and sonnets. If he hadn’t written Romeo & Juliet, it would never have existed. Individual artists give us special gifts, that if they didn’t exist neither would any of their work. No one could ever be Van Gogh or Pollock or Kandinski. So many but each their own voice. It is what we seek for ourselves is to find that one voice that is ours. I include dance. Fosse, never anyone like him or Graham or Astaire. All are gifts filled with The Muses blessings.

      I love the quote and the inspiration.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: GBBC | Great Backyard Bird Count - Geez, Gwen!

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