“The uncomfortable reality of perfectionism is that it encourages creative-sequestration: if you know you won’t be able to do something well, you’re less likely to try, in order to avoid failure (or less-than-perfection)…Today, perfection is a moving target. An idea that means something different for every single thing I produce. Showing my brush strokes has given me more than just a voice within my work: It’s given me the freedom to take that work in whichever direction I choose, and recognizing the good in whatever emerges at the other end.” – Colin Wright
Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank cursor blinking back at you on the screen, held back from writing the first word because you can’t seem to find the right way to add your final period? I have more times than I can count.
Usually, when this happens, I close my computer and walk away. I chalk it up to a “lack of inspiration” and move on to something I’m more confident that I can handle without pause in that moment. Answer emails, play with my dog, go for a run.
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, Perfectionism can be defined as “a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”
In the creative process, perfection is a lost cause. One man’s “perfect” is another’s “can we see it a different way?” – the path to perfection, in our line of work, leads to nowhere.
Perfection is a moving target.
Which is why I love Colin’s description of perfection. One that identifies “perfect” as a moving target. One that cannot simply be arrived at, but that with the right efforts at the right time, that sweet spot of perfection can be found.
The trick, then, to hitting that moving target, is to move with it. To “show your brushstrokes”, as Colin so aptly puts. Because there’s beauty in effort and there’s much to be said for trying, failing, and trying again.
A wise woman named Cher once said, “Until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.”
I can’t – and no one can – tell you where your pursuit will lead. But it’ll lead somewhere. And somewhere is good. Somewhere’s much farther than the blank cursor blinking on a blank screen will take you.
Show your brushstrokes. Look foolish. Redefine perfection and keep tinkering, iterating, and dreaming toward the possibility of being great.