Why Banning the Eraser will Make you a Better Designer

Oxford College of Garden Design

How to prevent perfectionism getting in your way

I have often used the analogy of ‘writers block’ when it comes to designing. Some days you can hit the drawing board and everything seems to go like a dream, while other days you can struggle for hours and get absolutely no-where.

This was brought home to me recently while reading a blog by Pat Flynn who was describing how he had wasted 4 hours of his time while trying to write part of his new book. He said the process of writing, deleting, writing some more, and deleting that, was so painful! By the end he was so upset at himself and the fact that he had just wasted 4 hours and he was not one word closer to finishing his book. 

How many of us have experienced that very same feeling while trying to find a design solution to a difficult landscape layout? We draw a few lines, then rub them out, draw a few more and erase these, till finally, we have to change the paper because we can no longer tell what we want to keep or do away with! 

Pat later talked about his experiences with some colleagues and after half an hour of drilling down, he realised that he was his own worst enemy.

You see, what he was trying to do was to make it perfect before moving onto the next section. He let perfectionism get in his way.

There is a very good book called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, who is a seasoned author and NY Times best seller who writes about how all authors struggle, and there's one quote I to draw attention too.

"Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friend."

In other words - trying to be perfect not only stops you from making progress, but it hinders creativity too.

Oxford College of Garden Design

At the Oxford College of Garden Design I ban my students from using an eraser! Instead I encourage them to just let it flow, I would always suggest you finish a rough sketch before moving onto the next idea because you never know when you might have a “happy accident”

Oxford College of Garden Design

Although this first draft maybe the first of many, it'll have many creative bits and pieces that you can pull from to create something even better in the end. 

I am a great advocate of the graphite stick! Simply because its almost impossible to rub out. I always work with one before turning to the computer. The freedom it gives me to express and explore different design solutions is at the heart of all creativity and I still don’t believe you get the same freedom working on a computer.

Stop worrying about being perfect and editing along the way - you can always do that later. Just go with it learning to relax and work with what comes naturally it is the greatest step you can take to becoming a competent designer.