The Path of Least Persistence

It has been said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. And I know from personal experience as well as observing the lives of others that the same can be said of the creative process. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, “the best laid plans of mice and men” often come to naught if we are not willing to press past the resistance to creativity. So I have identified at least three characteristics that pave the path of least persistence: perfectionism, procrastination and people pleasing.

Of the three, I think the most insidious one is people pleasing, because it masquerades as a positive attribute but corrodes our relationships and contributes to the other two issues. Chances are that if we strive to please people it also will lead to procrastination and perfectionism, which feed off each other as well. All three are part of a negative feedback loop that threaten to mire all of us—but especially creative types—in the paralysis of analysis, and result in a state of inertia.

In an effort to create art, whether through writing, photography, music or another medium, it can be tempting to procrastinate in the form of “waiting for the muse,” but that is a recipe for regrets. And insisting on perfection before releasing our art into the wild is likewise not helpful. We may fancy ourselves geniuses but unless we reach our audiences we are simply legends in our own minds. As the saying goes, if no one is following our leading, then we are simply out for a stroll.

So what are the antidotes to people pleasing, procrastination and perfectionism? I have found that affirmation, action and acceptance help to counter each of these enemies to the creative process. Affirmation from loved ones inoculates us from the need to please other people. Our action by very definition neutralizes the power of procrastination. And the acceptance of progress rather than perfection saves us from striving after an impossible ideal. Only by defining success on our terms can we truly succeed.