Perfection is a Trap
By the time your work is perfect, it will have become irrelevant.
I’m in a bit of a panic as I write this. Ok, maybe panic isn’t the right word, but I’m definitely feeling a level of anxiety that I don’t enjoy.
It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m stealing an hour in between meetings to begin the first draft of this blog post that’s due on Thursday at noon which is my own, somewhat artificial deadline, the need for which is probably an entire blog series all on its own.
The point, you guys, is it’s Tuesday and I’m on the FIRST DRAFT. For me, two days before launch is no time to be starting a first draft.
My creative process is drudgery.
It’s not easy. And is sort of encapsulated by Elizabeth Gilbert in her famous TED talk titled “Your Elusive Creative Genius.” I first heard this Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk on the screen at TEDxDetroit, which is happening in October this year. I’ll be there, you don’t want to miss it.
In her talk, Elizabeth describes an encounter with poet Ruth Stone, who shared with her that growing up working in the fields in rural Virginia, she could feel and hear a poem coming over the landscape. When she felt it coming, she knew she had to “run like hell” to the house to get to paper and pencil in order to collect it and write it down. There were times she would miss it and the poem would barrel through her to “continue on across the landscape looking, as she put it, ‘for another poet.’”
I, by contrast, create much like Gilbert does (although not nearly as prolific). I am a mule. The way that I create is to sit down on a regular basis, and work, and rework, and work again. There is no magic spark, there is no higher being, and there sure as shit isn’t anything rumbling over the landscape to be caught by me.
My stories start as shit and only through many different variations, and a lot of work, do I get to a place that feels right.
And I’m not talking about getting to a place that is perfect, because I never ship perfect work. The world will not wait for perfect work.
It will, however, wait for it to feel right. There is no perfect in my work, but there is a perfect balance between feeling right and being perfect. And this is a winnable battle that each of us has to fight for ourselves. I ship work that I feel good about, work that deserves to be in the world, but sometimes I’m not even able to strike that perfect balance. I don’t know why, I guess I have to trust that’s reserved for the really great stuff.
So this piece that you’re reading may not have been edited as many times as I’d like it to be edited. I may not have gone back again and again to get it to a point that feels just right. I know for sure it’s not perfect, but it does feel right.
As Lorne Michaels says, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready, it goes on because it’s 11:30.”
Or in my case, Thursday morning.