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Big Ideas

Restricting The Creative Perfectionist

When setting forth on a creative project, a few restrictions may help tame perfectionist tendencies.


Creatives are intensely emotionally tied to their work, and as a result are often perfectionists; sometimes the relentless pursuit for perfection and artistic integrity is at the expense of productivity and execution. Sometimes great ideas never happen because we insist on them happening the exact way we envision them, and our rationality is left by the wayside as we become overly immersed in the work we love.

Productive creativity requires a sense of discipline. Discipline requires a set of restrictions that keep us from drowning in the details. Without restrictions, we would spend all of our time and money on aspects of our work that are not requested (and likely not even noticed) by our clients and audiences. Sure, these details may be important to you, but it is likely the emotional side of you that loves your own work. Restrictions help us keep perspective and keep food on the table! When embarking on any creative project (especially those that you love), strive to set the following restrictions:

  • Milestones:

    What specifically do you hope to achieve, and by when?

  • Deadlines:

    When will you be “done?” At what date will you send the project along to someone else (client, partner, etc.) for feedback?

  • Budget:

    What limits will you impose around your creative project? Remember that many of the most productive creative professionals claim that budgets are a positive force in the creative process.

  • Reduced Scope:

    Rather than taking on all types of projects, start specializing and declining unrelated projects. When you stray too far from your expertise, you end up paying for it in unexpected ways.

On the topic of restricting perfectionist tendencies, Eric Karjaluoto, lead creative at smashLAB, shared insights on this own struggles in a recent Behance interview. “It all came down to asking ourselves where we were willing to bend. We weren’t willing to compromise the quality of our work, nor were we comfortable losing money on projects. Finally we chose to limit our offering. After years of being a small, full-service studio, we picked what we were best at and are now concentrating solely on that…”

Great ideas are the result of passion. So, by all means, enjoy the idea generation process. However, when it comes to taking action, identify a few restrictions to move your ideas forward.

Scott Belsky

Scott Belsky is the Chief Product Officer at Adobe and is the co-founder of 99U and Behance. He has been called one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, and is the author of The Messy Middle and the bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen.

Comments (2)
  • Lori Flynn

    What if we have a great Idea but no money to make it happen .The reason there is so many people out of work is because we don’t have money to get started.They say it takes money to make money!

  • Some

    It takes more creativity to find a way to begin from zero. It’s not impossible. It isn’t even that hard. You just have to keep looking.

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