Ellie Mirman's Startup Marketing Blog

Giving Up Perfectionism for Creativity

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Nov 21, 2013

This is my 8th speech from the Toastmasters program. Speech #8 is all about using visual aids... you don't get to experience the live demo I did during the actual presentation, so just imagine me demonstrating each technique - with audience help - after each section.

Hi, my name is Ellie and I'm a recovering perfectionist. For all the fellow perfectionists out there, I want to share my story of how I learned to let go of my perfectionist ways in favor of being more creative.

1988It started in kindergarten - after taking a day-long art class for kids at the MFA, I was hooked. My parents found an art teacher in our town and I started taking classes with her once a week. After school, we'd take the bus or walk to her house, have a snack of cookies or ice cream floats, and then head down to the basement to start on our art projects. We did everything from drawing to painting to sculpture to a full room installation. But it's the very basics that stuck with me to this point and help me battle my perfectionist ways every day.

There were 3 drawing techniques we used over and over again. I realized in preparing for this speech that these are techniques truly meant to build artistic skills - being able to use your hand to express an image. But they also helped me break out of the lines I had drawn for myself.

1. Blind Contour Drawing (drawing without looking at the paper)

The first is a technique called Blind Contour. Or, drawing without looking at your paper. It's a skill-building exercise because it forces you to inspect the details of the thing you're looking at and improve the communication between your eye and hand. But I liked it because it forced me to give up control over how the image would look. In fact, if the drawing ended up looking too much like the object, you weren't doing a good job because you were too worried about how it would look and probably cheated and snuck in a look at your paper.

2. Continuous/Contour Drawing (drawing without picking up your pencil)

A related technique was Continuous or Contour Drawing. Or, drawing without picking up your pencil. This technique often goes hand-in-hand with blind drawing because it's easier to understand where on the page you are if you haven't lifted your pencil. This technique helps you understand proportions - how long one thing is in relation to another - and focus on the larger pieces like size and proportion rather than details. Again this forced me to let go of how I thought something should look. After all, if I draw a face, that face inevitably ends up with glasses or a unibrow. But you learn to forget about those details and focus on the expression, life, or action of the object of your drawing.

3. Gesture Drawing (drawing with a short time limit)

The final technique I'll share is that of Gesture Drawing. Or, drawing with a short time limit. Gesture drawing helps you focus on the essence of an object - its motion and the space it takes up in a room. Again this takes the focus off the details - the natural focus of a perfectionist - to capture more of what you see. But the most important lesson from this technique for a recovering perfectionist is that you want to do as many drawings as possible. No single drawing - especially not your first - will be the perfect drawing that's just been waiting to burst out of you. Real skill takes practice and having a time limit on your drawing forces you to move on and practice again and again.

While my art teacher thought she was developing my drawing skills, little did she know she was helping me battle my perfectionist tendencies. If there's a lesson in here for any of us, it's that doing something under less than ideal circumstances forces you to let go of your singular idea of how something should be done. It forces you to see things differently, create things differently, and broaden your skills and your perspective.

Finally, here's the masterpiece I created during my live demo. This is 'Amanda stares at a beer while Steve dances around her.'


Topics: toastmasters

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