Practice Makes… Improvement?
The problem with perfection.
We all want to put our best work into the world. We want to dot all our I’s and cross all our T’s. We want to make sure that before we hang our art, publish our book, release our app, or launch our business, that we’ve covered all our bases.
Sounds like a logical approach to our work. Except when we get a little too obsessed with perfect. I tend to do this a lot with writing. I write and then re-write and then re-write some more. This is a normal process to an extent, but at some point a shift happens. It’s at that juncture where I start to edit simply because things aren’t perfect yet. There’s something missing or I think I can add another idea or improve a line of thinking.
The problem is, this tends to hurt more than help. I over-edit and over-write and lose the essence of what I had in the first place. This is a problem, that leads to a more debilitating issue, not finishing.
When I completely lose the plot with my writing, I also lose my confidence to share it. So I don’t. That piece of work that had potential doesn’t go anywhere, because it’s not perfect and so what’s the point. It’s in times like these that I have to remind myself a simple lesson: nothing is ever perfect.
Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.
Try as we might, perfection isn’t something that just happens. That’s not to say we shouldn’t create or that striving for perfection is a bad thing. Quite the opposite actually. Understanding that perfection isn’t the end goal, can make creating far more fruitful. Here are four simple things we need to remember when it comes to perfect.
1. Remove Perfect From The Conversation
Artists throughout history have understood the burden of perfection and have an elegant, effective solution: they make deliberate errors. The artist would intentionally make a mark or error in their work, ensuring that perfection was not even an option.
This act symbolizes a simple shift in how we view our work. It gives us the freedom to create without any pressure and when we know perfect isn’t expected, we are much more likely to approach it.
We all want to strive for perfection, but without all the baggage. Removing the pressure makes a big difference.
2. Know When To Stop
An important, but difficult thing for all creators, is knowing when our work is done. This is largely subjective, but it is ultimately up to the creator and not any critic to make this decision. It’s hard to know when our changes are no longer adding real value, but instead chasing something that can’t be attained.
It may be a feeling more than anything else, but one way to gain this insight is to pay attention to our personal feelings towards the work. Despite what anyone else thinks, if you’re happy with our work, despite it’s imperfections, then it’s probably done.
Just remember, don’t start making changes for the sake of it. If anything, take a break from the work if something is still bothering you. A fresh perspective may be all you need.
3. Embrace Your Quirks
Despite our desire to make things perfect, it is actually in the mistakes and the errors that we find our true voice. We all have a personal style and our own quirks that manifest in our work. It is these nuances that give our work authenticity and that make our work truly our own.
The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will realize that these details that we used to hate, is what actually makes our work great. Over time, these become part of our personal interpretation of what perfect really is.
4. Practice Gets You Closer
Striving for perfect is one thing, but achieving it is quite another. We can certainly get closer to perfection with a simple step: practice.
The more you make, the more you share, and the more you ship, the close you’ll get to perfection. In the end, practice does make perfect. We must realize that even if we’re not at the level we want in that moment, the correct decision is to finish and start anew on the next project.
If we do that enough, we’ll start to appreciate our flaws, master our craft, and find perfection in what we do.
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
Ultimately, the downfall of striving for perfection is that we don’t ship our work. We don’t put it out into the world. We don’t unleash it for the world to see. This is the worse outcome of all because our creative endeavors are meant to be shared.
Practice means improvement and nothing else.
Don’t let perfection get in the way.