Monday, January 12, 2015

Perfection is the Enemy of...well, everything.

I'm sure you've heard the adage, "Perfection is the enemy of good." And it's completely true for a perfectionist like me--stereotypical over-achieving only child.  Hi, I'm Rowenna, and I'm a perfectionist.

There are most definitely times when the pursuit of perfection has me either avoiding starting something to begin with ("What if it's not perfect?") or giving up too soon ("Gah! It's not perfect!").   It's a trait I've tried to curb as I've gotten older, especially as I look back and consider--what things did I avoid because I knew I wouldn't be perfect at them?  What might I have enjoyed or discovered I was actually pretty ok at?

I've never been afraid of writing for that reason--writing was that thing I was good at, even as a kid, so it didn't give me the "What ifs" the way other pursuits did.  For instance, say, sports.  I avoided things I was afraid I'd stink at.  As an example, sports.  When I was in high school, my friends convinced me to join the lacrosse team.  I did, for three reasons: 1) The sport actually seemed pretty cool; 2) We got to wear kilts and 3) It was a club, not varsity sport, so you couldn't get cut from the team.  Did I mention I was really unsure about my prowess in sports?

I wasn't great, but I wasn't terrible--I was a starting midfielder on our equivalent of JV and learned that I can actually run pretty fast.  But moreover, I learned that there's value in things that you're not perfect at, and value in imperfect work.  I had fun.  I stayed in shape.  I'm sure I improved some kind of coordination.  I kind of understand sports, which means I can participate in sportsball conversations in social situations.  Valuable.

Beyond being the enemy of the good, the perfect is also the enemy of progress.  Period.  You'll never start if you're paralyzed by the perfect.

I'll never be one for sloppy work.  There's another old adage that I can't get behind, not for my own work--to just write, even if it's crap, because you can edit crap later, but you can't edit a blank page.  I fear crap far more than I fear a blank page.  But that's just me--and accepting that there's a lot of range between crap and perfection helps me fill the page with something that approaches good, even if it's not perfection.

So I'm aiming for even less dedication to perfection.  The good is valuable, perhaps even more so than the perfect--because if we're honest, the perfect is pretty elusive.  As far as old adages go, a good bird in the hand is worth a perfect pair in the bush.

2 comments:

  1. I'm not a perfectionist at all. I'm the sort that whips something up and goes "meh good enough." so on the flip side, the problem with writers like me who don't aim for perfection is that I rush things (*cough* my r&r) then later regret it!!!

    Anyway, I use to enjoy writing the shitty first draft... Until I went to university and began writing essays. That somehow rewired my brain. Now I have trouble getting past chapter One of WIP#2 because it isn't perfect enough!

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  2. It seems I contradicted myself in the last statement. I'm not a perfectionist but I can't stand crappy first chapters!

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