There was once a time when I held my head up high and called myself a perfectionist. I’d sit in Photoshop for hours, nudging pixels until it was “just right”. I’d edit a blog post for weeks, removing words, adding them back, before removing them again.
Perfect is subjective, abstract, intangible. What is perfect, anyway? Is there even a finish line? A perfectionist to me isn’t just someone who pushes pixels around for longer than they should, it’s someone whose standards are unreasonably high. They’re unrealistic. The idea in their head is so good and so unachievable that it’s getting in the way of finishing something.
Our pursuit of perfection comes from our fears and insecurities. “Oh, this isn’t ready for the world”, is a way of saying “I don’t want to share what I’ve created.”
Perfectionism is our brain trying to protect us—from creating something that is embarrassing and stupid.
Not only that, but perfectionists often feel anxiety, stress, and frustration.
Perfect, then, is a barrier to shipping. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. It’s dangerous not only for the work that we’re trying to create, but to us as individuals.
The irony is, of course, that you need to release imperfect work before you can improve. You see the artist who creates “perfect” work, and forget that it took them thousands of paintings before that to produce what you see in front of you.
If you want to grow an audience, build a business, create a popular blog, write a book, make a short film, creating work that is “good enough” is essential.
Good enough doesn’t mean shipping mediocre work. Good enough can be great. Good enough can make an impact. Good enough can change lives. After all, your good enough is someone else’s perfect.
When you’re in the trenches creating, you see all the faults and problems. But the people you’re creating for don’t. They’re looking for the story, to be entertained, to achieve something, to grow and to learn; they’re not looking for faults or perfection.
Let’s just say we could make something that was perfect. Is perfect so great? I’d argue that perfect is actually kind of boring. It’s the song where the guitarist makes a mistake that we remember. It’s the imperfections, the unexpected, and the unpredictable that excites us. We aim for perfect, and yet that might be taking us away from the very thing that we’re trying to create.
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese phrase that describes the acceptance of imperfection. It describes a beauty in things that are “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.
I think that’s something we can apply to our work. Not only does imperfect have it’s own kind of beauty, but imperfect has a shot at being something because it’s out there in the world.
This is the first post in my 30 day writing challenge. I’ll be attempting to write 30 blog posts in 30 days. I wrote this in a few hours so it’s far from perfect, as will the following 29 posts. But I’m ok with that. If I wanted to make every post perfect, they’d never see the light of day.
It’s time to embrace a little wabi-sabi.