I feel this in so many dimensions of my life, but with a particularly poignancy in my academic work(philosophy) and music.
I agree with the poster above who mentions the search for ideality through negativity at the core of Western pedagogical practices as being particularly aggravating for this kind of thinking. I recently hit a bit of a wall with my research, where I was really driving myself on this hyper-structured routine and feeling worse and worse. After going through a bit of a nervous breakdown, I made a concious decision to stop striving, to let go of that intense desire to be “the best”. I now realize that what I perceived to be energy and motivation was actually an feeling of generalized anxiety about my value, my place in the world, the meaning of my work and the lack of support I was feeling from the instutional context. In particular, I realized how engrained the value systems of the academic world were becoming in my own relationship to my practice, something which I think creates immense pressure for those who actually want to live philosophically, i.e with a deeper sense of value than the neo-liberal economy of scarcity allows. All that being said, after letting go of all the “productivity wisdom” I amassed during the pandemic, beginning to do my work with real pleasure rather than restrictive striving, I feel a certain sense of becoming unblocked. Things are constellating with more clarity than when I was pushing so hard.
I think in a way, things are slightly easier when it comes to music, though the pandemic has certainly made it more difficult to establish those horizontal, aneconomic connections amongst music makers and listeners. My music journey began with making beats for soundcloud when I was 18, and I kind of rode the lo-fi house wave to some very minor online sucess, followed by a couple year stint of underground djing to small-medium size crowds in Toronto. Despite really enjoying djing, my production taste and musical ear quickly outgrew my actual abiltiies and after my initial realases I felt utterly incapable of producing anything I was satisfied. I didn’t know what I wanted to make, all I wanted was to “create a product” to share with my “audience” . Before I even had a full arrangement I was trying to think about what label to send to, what other’s would think etc. I think a lot of this has to do with fantasy, of creative fantasies that support a certain idealization of what we think we would like to become as artists. I spent a couple of years opening ableton tracks, laying down sounds from the same sample pack, getting frustrated and closing it. Experimentation really stopped, which is perhaps the death-knell of perfectionism. I ended up taking a long break from producing music, and moving away from the scene I was involved in, which resulted in listening to a much larger variety of music (the first step towards unblocking).
Things only seriously began to release after two events: I met a friend who shared my tastes and had a beautiful attitude towards music. He is a self-taught sax player who just practices to hear himself make sound, which does not preclude an increasing technical mastery of the instrument. We began to jam together in a really unstructured way, just me playing loud ass synths and him riffing over top. I think this is perhaps one of the easiest ways to unblock with musical perfectionism: Find one person to show your sounds to, and make it just for them, just for the two of you to listen to and chat about. I think the internet exposes us to an quais-infinite, faceless audience, whose desires we are expected to be able to predict. Grounding your practice in an embodied, lived relationship is really helpful, though online communities like lines and other forums can have a similar effect.
The second thing that really opened me up was learning a new technique or “environment”/instrument. After years of daws, I started learning supercollider which I actually really click with. I think this really taught me a lot about sound, and programming, which has me thinking about music in a really different way. It was frustrating at first because you can’t make shit, but once you start to learn to think in a different way, those new pathways are doors to inspiration. I no longer am thinking about notes/beats/genres, but mathematical objects and concrete spectra.
I guess maybe one final thing to end. I feel a lot of my perfectionism comes from a kind of time blindness, where it feels like if this isn’t my masterpiece, then I’ll never make one. It feels like everything has to be sorted out now and anything less is failure. I think this comes from a primal fear of death, which, well-justified in a certain dimension, is unhelpful (and statistically unlikely). The ability to ride the waves of creativity, of connection and disconnection, of loss and clarity, of uncertainty proper, is perhaps the meta-practice of living that creative activity is the true training for.
Phew huge rant, I guess this touched on something!