How perfectionism kills creativity and free work

by | Jun 17, 2020 | 0 comments


Last week David Hoogland asked me a question to reflect on.

“What would be a creative liberation for you? And what is holding back?”

I knew the answer immediately.

Making my own artwork. Not for clients. Just free work. With no set up plan, just my fingers on the paper and see where it leads me. 

I used to do this as a kid. But after I got older and went to art school, my urge to create free work was killed by my own perfectionism. I associated art with grades. And I was a designer now so I should make an instant masterpiece to prove my worth. So I froze. I never made free work with paint or soft pastels again. Which I used a lot when I was young.

After reflecting on Davids question I asked myself, how can I make it fun? How can I enjoy it like I used to? Getting the pressure off of having it to be something. Seeing it as a way of expressing, enjoying the doing, not judging the end result.  


Buddhist sand mandala meditation

This reminds me of the meditation practice of sand mandalas Buddhist monks make. They work on it for months. And although the end result is astonishing, when they finish it they blow the sand away and the artwork vanishes. All that work for nothing! No, it was for the joy and mediation of doing it. Without attaching to the outcome.

What a lesson. 

So I tried to practice this concept last week and I made free work again. After 20 years I used soft pastels again. I saw it as meditation, an experiment, playing with colors without having it to be something beautiful. And I relaxed. I enjoyed it. I flowed. Huge liberation for me.


I do kind of like the end result, is that bad? No, it gives me joy again to make free work and also to look at it. I like beauty and what it represents to me. Freedom. And it represents the energy of joy, not perfectionism. 

My perspective changed, so my feelings changed.

Hanneke Laaning

With love,

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