Learn to Be a Disciplined Half-Ass

I’ve been reading “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and one idea of hers has been really resonating with me (enough that it’s now plastered across the top of my daily planner):

“You must learn how to become a deeply disciplined half-ass.”

Let me explain.

According to Gilbert, the two worst things you can be as a creative is lazy and a perfectionist.

Well shit, that’s me.

The lazy part is obvious. If you want to create, you have to be disciplined. You have to show up every day and do the work. Even if it’s not easy or fun. Whether or not you’re feeling inspired. You gotta sit your ass down and put in the effort.

But the perfectionist part, is just as important, if not as obvious.

Perfectionism – while sounding like a good quality at first – actually suffocates your creativity. It paralyzes you from ever completing anything. Or starting anything. Or ever enjoying the process in the first place.

Hence, why you must learn to be a disciplined half-ass.

As soon as I read that, I knew that this was exactly where my creative journey needed to go next.

The discipline part, while not always easy for me, I can definitely make happen. That wasn’t a huge problem.

But the perfectionism. Good Lord.

I’ve spent the past two decades being held hostage by my perfectionism.

Every project I’ve ever worked on turned into a miserable, stress-filled experience of, “not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.” Nothing ever matched up to the impossible ideals I set in my head. And so most of my projects ended up being abandoned halfway through – or never started in the first place.

And if by some miracle I actually finished a project, I would be so burned out by the process and disappointed with the end result, I’d just want to run as far from creativity as possible.

Oy vey.

Now I’ve been working on my creative issues for a while. I’ve read a ton of books. Tried all sorts of habits and techniques.

But it wasn’t until “Big Magic” that I first heard of this concept of EMBRACING half-assness. Making imperfection a virtue. And I loved it.

There are only so many hours in a day, after all. There are only so many days in a year, only so many years in a life. You do what you can do, as competently as possible within a reasonable time frame, and then you let it go.

Amen. That’s exactly what I needed to hear. And the exact opposite of how I’ve been creating my entire life.

For example, every blog post I’ve ever written goes like this:

    1) Get excited about an idea
    2) Write a first draft in a reasonable amount of time (capturing about 90% of what I’m trying to express)
    3) Then spend countless hours and months torturously tweaking, polishing, and slaving over the remaining 10%. Ugh.

Well, no longer.

From here on out, my creative journey will be focused on 1) putting in some work every day, and 2) releasing the work when it’s good enough.

Life’s short. I can’t spend the next decade of my life holding back my creative expression just cause I’m worried that it’s not perfect.

Getting something out, anything, is better than nothing at all.

And here’s the thing: it’s not that I DON’T want to create amazing, mind-blowing, awesome shit.

Of course I do!

But to expect to do that with every single project I make, right out of the gate, is foolish.

However if I consistently put out “good enough” work week after week, year after year – 5 years from now, I bet I’ll be creating some pretty badass shit.

How about 10 years from now? 20 years?

The work will get better the more I consistently do it. And complete it. And move on to the next project. And the next. And the next.

But if I just sit here and wait for perfection, I’ll be waiting for the rest of my life. And not getting one inch closer.

So here’s to being a disciplined half-ass.

To valuing “good enough” over “perfect”.

To putting “self-expression” over “what will other people think”.

To taking the pressure off creativity and letting it have some goddamn fun for once!

(And yes, I totally wanted to spend 20 more hours making this post perfect…but fuck it. Good enough, on to the next one!)