How To Avoid The Curse of Creative Perfectionism

Legendary animated filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki can't stand to see his own creations, lest he get caught up in his own mistakes. His solution? Move onto the next project.

Creativity comes from perseverance--at least according to legendary animated filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, whose work has influenced the likes of Pixar and The Simpsons. In a new book about his incredible career, Turning Point 1997-2008, he describes his creative process as one of avoiding regret:

Making films is all about--as soon as you're finished--continually regretting what you've done. When we look at films we've made, all we can see are the flaws; we can't even watch them in a normal way. I never feel like watching my own films again. So unless I start working on a new one, I'll never be free from the curse of the last one. I'm serious. Unless I start working on the next film, the last one will be a drag on me for another two or three years.

Creativity is not a very glamorous process, but instead one that leaves you feeling like a constant failure. As fans of Miyazaki know, his works, considered classics, are nowhere near failures. Still, a creative perfectionist like Miyazaki would only see his work's flaws. The only way to keep creating without stewing in regret, then, is to continue on to bravely march ahead into the next project.

Miyazaki isn't the only artist to shun his own work. Many actors don't watch their own movies, for similar reasons. Johnny Depp, for example, told the BBC that he avoids his own movies. "I like the experience, I like the process, I like doing the work. But then, you know if I've got to see myself--I don't like to see the thing become the product, I suppose," he said.

Miyazaki put out his 11th, and he claims final, film last year, The Wind Rises.

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  • As an artist, writer and musician myself, I am the same exact way. Once I draw, write or play something, I never go back to see the finished product. All I see are the errors of how I didn't quite make that curve right or I didn't vibrato enough or I should have said that in a different way, and I become obsessed with trying to perfect the errors that it consumes me and I start thinking I'm not good enough or I completely suck no matter how many times someone tells me that it was awesome because then I feel they are giving me sympathy compliments. We are our own worst critics. I never go back over my work once I've made up my mind its complete. Ever.

  • 'Still, a creative perfectionist like Miyazaki would only see his work's the flaws.' Is this intentionally grammatically incorrect? If so, how clever! If not, how's that for a beautiful case of poetic irony?