Progress over perfection: something now over everything never

The world never stops moving.

The force that pulls it along is one that thousands of years of cumulative science can only sort of begin to explain. Within universal motion, there are trillions of movements: Energy flows indiscriminately from the microscopic to the cataclysmic and back, never slowing.

Living in the developed world in the 21st century, we have grown impatient with our blundering fleshy selves. The technology we’ve conceived has begun to surpass us. We’ve become its hostages. We fret from place to place at 15-minute intervals. We ping from thought to thought at nanosecond bursts, never slowing.

Technology demands that we keep moving on its timeline.

Perpetual motion is good, but not if it’s directionless. Methodical decision-making is also good, but not if it means stagnation. Sometimes we spin in circles without ever choosing a direction. We are told to dream big, but rarely are we told to do small.

In the creative field, big dreams and directed energy are prerequisites to greatness. We want to be the superlatives in our fields, but without first being entirely mediocre.

Mediocracy usually comprises redundancy, mistakes, oversights, unoriginal work; clichés, barely-enough efforts, and the likely-ignored. There’s really nothing romantic or individualistic about this necessary phase.

No one likes to be in this professional puberty, but its a rite of passage we should allow ourselves to endure for longer.

For years my design studio and myself both lacked web presences, which is an embarrassing truth to admit. The reason wasn’t really because “I was too busy,” or “didn’t know how,” or that “I didn’t think it was important;” it was because I never felt like my work ever reached a point where it was good enough to put my name on it.

The site in its unpublished Github repos never quite reached the unattainable standard I set for it. The unattainable standard evolved as my skills developed and as the principles I was using to design it became obsolete. Rather than publishing to web and allowing it to be work in progress, I opted to hoard drafts in secrecy à la Salinger (posthumously-published PHP perhaps — a self-referential acronym?).

It’s silly for a million reasons, (if you’re saying MVP right now I’ll hit you) but mostly because I’d rather suffer the consequences of having nothing over having something. It’s bad to have a mediocre website, but it’s worst not to have one at all (for a designer). It’s bad to be thought a poor designer, but worst to not be thought one at all. (If you don’t believe me, believe Rilla Alexander.)

So to convince the Internet that I’m a person, a designer, an art director, I’m learning to put things out into the world before they’ve reached adulthood. What that means varies by project and is not easy to define in abstract terms. Though I’m unlikely to give up the quest of perfection altogether, I vow that I will allow myself the patience of steps in between. It might mean that for an indeterminable amount of time, the project may live in a mediocre motel — where edges don’t meet, where subjects and verbs disagree, and where it looks odd on a iPad Mini. So as I’m never slowing.

Sometimes all we can ask of ourselves is to continue, no matter how little we feel we’ve accomplished and how distant our desired visions may appear from what lies in front of us.

We creatives can learn from Gaudí and his Sagrada Família. Gaudí had the grandest vision of perfection for his Barcelonan basilica in 1883 when its construction began. He dedicated his life’s work to its completion, yet sadly only lived to see it about a quarter of the way complete. His quest for perfection was carried on by its successive architects, who were interrupted by a civil war, conflicting bureaucratic direction, and more pressing developments to the city. And though the basilica is largely unfinished and imperfect in many ways, it still provides 2.5MM people something worth visiting each year. You could say that everyone looks pass the scaffolding and construction tools to see the artful, naturalistic ceilings or the meticulous stained glass — and they might. But it also might be that everyone is more comfortable with seeing something incomplete than we want to believe. The Sagrada Família represents something braver and beautiful than perfection: progress.