The Woods Would Be Very Silent If No Birds Sang Except Those Who Sang Best

"The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best." - Henry Van Dyke Have you been thinking about creating something - a song, poem, book, blog or screenplay - but worry it won't be perfect?

I talked with a woman who’s been working on her book for five years. When I asked why she hadn’t pulled the trigger on it yet, she gave a lot of reasons (she hadn't had time because she’d been busy at work, she needed to take care of her mom who had gotten sick, she’d broken up with her boyfriend, etc.)

But what it really came down to was … doubts.

Doubts the book would succeed. Doubts that all the work would be worth it. Doubts about what other people would say or think.

I told her, “Perfectionism and procrastinating kill creativity. Put a date on the calendar. Until you do, your project will never get done. You’ll just keep coming up with reasons to put it aside.”

She said, “But how will I know when it’s ready?”

“You won’t. You just need to make a decision you’re going to get it out the door. You just need to get crystal clear that you’ll always regret it if you don’t finish it.”

I added, "My favorite line from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants was when she rushing to finish a skit in her first year at SNL and Lorne Michaels told her to wrap it up.

She protested, 'But it’s not ready.'

Lorne laughed and said, 'Tina, the show doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.'”

It's time for you to pick an 11:30 for your project.

Because if you don’t, chances are your project will never get out the door.

Our bestselling authors at the Maui Writers Conference - from Frank McCourt to Carrie Fisher to Mitch Albom - didn’t agree on much, but they did agree that they'd still be working on their books if it weren’t for their publisher's deadline.

We can always tweak things. We can always make our project better.

But creative work is better DONE than PERFECT. Because if you wait for it to be perfect, it will never get done.

I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes about perfectionism, procrastination and creative work.

You might want to review these, pick a favorite and post it where you can see it every day to remind yourself that, as Henry van Dyke said, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”

Your creative project - whether it's a book, screenplay, poem, story or song - may not be the best; but it may be just what someone needs to see, hear, be reminded of THAT DAY.

1. "Procrastination is often misspelled as perfectionism." - Pinterest post

2. "Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better." - Maya Angelou

3. "Everything you want is on the other side of fear. - Jack Canfield

4. "When perfectionism is driving ... shame is always running shotgun." - Brene Brown

5. "The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you're the pilot." - Michael Altshuler

6. "Fear is boring." - Olympia Dukakis

7. "I didn't come this far to only come this far." - poster in library

8. "May your choices be based on your hopes and not your fears." - Nelson Mandela

9. "Don't tell it like it is, tell it like you want it to be." - Esther Hicks

10. "One person can make a difference and everyone should try." - John F. Kennedy

11. "You don't have to be brave to be courageous." - Sam Horn (more about that here)

12. "The only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve is fear of failure." - Paulo Coelho

13. "Your life expands or contracts in proportion to your courage." - Anais Nin

14. "In any given moment, we have a choice is to step forward into growth or step back into safety." - Abraham Maslow

15. "I think writers are too worried it's all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you." - Asha Dornfest

16. "Thinking 'Here goes nothing' could be the start of everything." - Drew Wagner

17. "What makes you different or weird - that's your strength." - Meryl Streep

18. "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create." - Buddha

19. "I don't think my story is over yet." - Serena Williams

20. "Working hard for something you don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion." - Simon Sinek

21. "You become what you believe." - Oprah Winfrey

22. "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose is to give it away. - Pablo Picasso.

23. "Here's a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you're alive, it isn't." - Lauren Bacall

24. "Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother." - Kahlil Gibran

25. "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up." - Anne Lamott

26. Art enables us to to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." - Thomas Merton

Yes, getting your creative work out in the world can be scary. You know what's scarier? Regret.

It's time to pick a "11:30" to finish your work and get it out in the world - no matter what

The world needs more people willing to contribute their creativity.

We need to hear your song. Express yourself. Add to the symphony of life.

Start with an OPEN Mind, Not the END In Mind

I have enjoyed every single moment of this private workshop at Monet's Garden with world-class photographers Charles Needle, Dewitt Jones and Jack H. Davis. I've had an opportunity to practice Bucky Fuller's advice to "Dare to become a beginner."

vernon church - flowers

The other participants have years of experience and dozens of lens.  They wear vests with pockets and pull carry-ons stocked with different cameras, tripods and gear.

I am the rube of the group, armed solely with my trusty iPhone.

The good news is, these renowned photographers are all fans of the smart phon'es miraculous ability to allow almost anyone to create gee-whiz images right out of the gate.

One of my biggest lessons of this past week is to NOT follow Stephen Covey's advice to "Start with the end in mind."

It's far more important to start with an open mind.

Here's what I mean.

We trekked to nearby Vernon for a field trip to historical Notre Dame Collegiate Church that was build between the 11th and 16th century.



Charles told us we would discover magic inside if we kept our eyes open.

So I walked in, looking for things that got my eyebrows up - a sure sign of intrigue.


I saw the sun glowing on this baptismal and thought, "THAT'S interesting" and snapped this picture of it.

Now, this image is nothing "special" but it did capture that moment and it's a starting point.


As Dewitt says, there is more than one right answer ... so I kept playing.

Let's try this.

How about that?

Let's get closer.

Wow.  Look at that!!


I keep experimenting - letting my gut be my guide.

As Charles says, "You have permission to play.  There are no penalties. You can have as many do-overs and fresh starts as you'd like."

I kept experimenting with different points of view.

blue reflection baptismal

Little gasps of delight surrounded me as we all experienced the coalescing of something beautiful and unexpected come into focus.

It reminded me ... do you know how Einstein knew he had a good idea?  He laughed out loud.

I found myself laughing out loud with the sheer joy of what emerged in front of my eyes.

Carrie Fisher says "Instant gratification takes too long."

Well, that's one of the many miracles of taking and making images with your iPhone.

In seconds, you can capture and then create something that didn't exist a moment before.

And it's available to anyone with a smart phone who's willing to play.

greeen reflection from baptismal

Little could I gave predicted when I saw the sun glowing on that baptismal that a few shots later, it would turn into this ...

This, of course, is a metaphor waiting to happen.

First, may we all have the courage to try something new and dare to be a beginner.

Second, DON'T start with the end in mind.  Start with an open  mind.

There's no way I could have conjured up these "end" images in the beginning.  I didn't even know they were possible.

Third, keep paying attention to what gets your eyebrows up.  Then, keep playing until something clicks for you.

Then, click it.

Voila!  (When in France, use French sayings:-)'re becoming an artist.

It's fun, incredibly rewarding ... and available to ANYONE.