Julia Cameron on Perfectionism

"Perfectionism is not a quest for the best but for the worst in ourselves."


This is from Julia Cameron’s incredible book, The Artist’s Way. This excerpt on creative perfectionism resonated with me so much that I just had to recreate the passage to disseminate to everyone. Hopefully, it pull you out of your own vicious cycle. 


Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop— an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck inside the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole.

Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get mired in getting the details just right. We correct our originality into a uniformity that lacks passion and spontaneity […] The perfectionist writes, paints, creates with one eye on her audience. Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results.


For the perfectionist, there are no first drafts, rough sketches, warm-up exercises. Every draft is meant to be final, perfect, set in stone.  […] The perfectionist is never satisfied. The perfectionist never says, “This is pretty good. I think I’ll just keep going.”

To the perfectionist, there is always room for improvement. The perfectionist calls this humility. In reality, it is egotism. It is pride that makes us want to write a perfect script, paint a perfect painting, perform a perfect audition monologue. 

Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. Perfectionism is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough— that we should try again.


A book is never finished. But at a certain point, you stop writing it and go onto the next thing. […] That is a normal part of creativity— letting go.