You are a music creator and you need to put your greatest work forward. Naturally! You are excited about distributing your music and you want it to be excellent.
But perfection in music is harmful…
Striving to do your greatest and always push the envelope is great. It is the force that motivates you to keep going and enhance your craft. However, when it turns into perfectionism, it becomes a blocker.
Perfectionism leads you to the impossibly harsh inner critic that provides you with a bad review every time you do something—so you end up doing nothing at all.
It results in procrastination, self-doubt, and stress that hinder your real creativity.
As an artist, you have surely been paralyzed by one of those before:
- Not knowing where to begin
- Fear of failing
- Your last failure
- Your last success (and needing to top it)
- Someone else’s success or talent
- Someone else’s critiques
All of those fears develop from the pursuit of perfection.
The truth is, if you learn to embrace your imperfection, you will be able to end more music, stay inspired longer and develop your craft much quicker—less fear means more releases. And more releases means rising as a creator every day.
So to help you make every day a creative one, here are 5 methods perfectionism could be hindering your music, and how to overcome them. So you can get back to being the incredible (and imperfect) producer making your greatest work.
1. You think you always need more stuff
Your browser has 20 tabs open with tips on the way to perfect your combine. You have watched 10 tutorials on which guitar pedal to purchase—however you already have 20 of them waiting on your pedalboard.
You obsess over gear you do not have or learning this or that new trick…
However, have you actually sat down to make music lately, with the gear and knowledge you already have?
When new gear or obsessive tweaking become a method to keep away from finishing a track, meaning perfectionism has become procrastination.
Your preoccupation with perfection could be THE thing keeping you from taking risks and challenging yourself. So just close these tabs, disconnect and return to your song. Turn off the inner critic for 45 minutes (time it if you need to!) and just make freely—come back to it and fix it later.
2. You always work on your live set but never play live
Having some performance anxiety as a musician is regular. However, endlessly practicing in your basement thinking that you will only play ‘when you’re really ready’ is a trap.
It might lead to never playing at all.
Get out of your bedroom! Book a show and work your ass off to prepare for it. The time limit will be healthy.
Book a show a few months from now, even in case you do not feel ready. Having that date on the calendar will push you to work towards a concrete purpose.
Do not forget that your music sounds different out in the world—on different PA systems, in rooms full of people, on dancefloors bursting with power. You should play your music out to see how people react to it. And it does not have to be excellent from the first show.
Hot Tip: Use your ENTIRE soundcheck slot to make sure everything is absolutely tip-top. It is what it’s there for. Measure twice, reduce once!
Being a bit scared gearing up to a show is good. Take the leap to play shows and get out of your comfort zone.
Rehearse, prepare in advance and get everything set up to minimize the stress of the unknown. Get in the mind frame where you could embrace your mistakes and leave your perfectionism at home. You will discover that the challenge was worth it. In the process, you became ready for anything. On to the next milestone!
3. You never share because it has to be ‘perfect’
We have all said it: “I will share my track when it is excellent.” Or “Oh no, I can not share any music with you, it’s not completed.”
I’ve news for you: Perfection doesn’t exist—even if it did, it isn’t what makes a great track.
It is normal to want your greatest track out there, even when you’re just sharing it privately with a friend. However, waiting until it is “perfect” before you share it to anybody leads to:
- Never ending your track, though it was completed a long time ago and now you are just fussing over details
- Not hearing what’s good about it anymore since you heard it too many times
- Believing that it’s never going to be excellent and giving up
- Actually over-tweaking your track so much that you ruin it
It is time to redefine how you think about sharing your music, and what it means to be ‘completed.’ I’ve already talked about how sharing music during the process is beneficial. Getting feedback during your process could vastly enhance your music since you get a second pair of ears.
Is your fear of being judged holding you back? Is your fear an excuse? You are missing out on lots of opportunities for great feedback, potential collaborations, and learning experiences.
Put perfection back in the pantry and share early and sometimes to search out your best sound.
4. You’re too focused on the outcome
Of course, your last track is what most of your followers will hear, so it’s necessary to have a great completed sound.
However, obsessing about the final outcome could block you from making your best work because your mind is not free to create.
Once you’re in the moment and you let things flow, your best work comes out. All of the magic occurs organically: These happy mistakes, these aha! moments and those new discoveries. Ultimately, it’s during the process that you shape your technique and tastes–what makes you who you’re.
When you do not leave some space for messes and mistakes, you are missing out. Novelist Anne Lamott writes: “Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s, true friend.”
Don’t think of your objectives as all or nothing. Let yourself be fully engaged in the process even if it is not what you expected—because at least you’re creating. And you could be surprised what comes out of it.
5. You compare yourself to unrealistic success
In case your purpose is to be the best at something, you are setting yourself up for failure. There’ll always be people who’ve been at it longer, who have more experience, have a different path, have different benefits, etc. Comparing yourself to someone else will hold you back. Be YOU first.
Instead of setting unrealistic expectations by comparing yourself to others, turn inwards. Look at yourself: what are you good at? What do you enjoy and what could you work on? In case your measure for success is you, you will discover that development and improvement are simple to see.
Being good at something is a great starting point—it is your starting point. Work on building these skills at your own pace, and listen to your creative instincts.
Set targets which are necessary to you. Begin from where you’re at. Set some steps to achieving these objectives, put some dates on it and get to work. Filter out the noise of what other people think or do—find value in your own path.
And keep in mind it’s ok to not succeed the first time. Review your objectives as you go and adjust them to your reality. Once you put in the work, you will see that it is simple to outdo yourself. Do your best, and forget about the rest.
Perfection Is An Illusion
What hides behind your heroes’ perfection is actually exhausting work and tons of failures that were all a part of the process. Perfectionism is not a great thing. It kills creativity and produces unnecessary stress, doubt, and discouragement.
So take things one step at a time. Set targets that represent you and break them down into smaller steps.
Give yourself permission to show up at the studio and see what occurs. Maybe nothing. Perhaps not today. Perhaps your first few takes are bad. However, it’s all about doing it. You are a musician? Do it every day. One of these days something great will come out—Eventually, it will become everyday.
Soon enough you will see that by not comparing yourself to others and getting rid of the obsession for perfection, attaining your own definition of success is simpler than you think.