The Problem with Perfect
By: Derek Nosbisch
Here’s a little-known fact: it is okay to be intimidated by a blank page. In fact, the alternative is much more crippling. To stare at your finished poster and only see the flaws, to watch an animated short and pick apart the moments you could’ve made better, to re-read your copy for the five-hundredth time and declare it cliched? These are the moments that I catch myself in time and again, and I dread it more than any form of creative block. I am a self-described perfectionist, and even now as I write this blog post, I wonder whether or not I’m using the right words to describe how I feel.
I tend to view projects as jigsaw puzzles, where I have a very clear idea of what sort of piece should fit in any given spot. The issue with this mindset is that there is no one correct solution to a project, and trying to brute force a solution will get you nowhere. If you see your work as the problem, then you only have yourself to blame when things go wrong. Inevitably you will compromise your internal ideas over and over again, until the cascading failures build up to make you unsatisfied with your work. This is not healthy, and it does not lead to better work; It leads to unforced errors and missed opportunities.
Perfection disregards the good in the pursuit of fixing what isn’t good enough. Setting unreasonable standards for your work and then critiquing the end product against that standard will only send you into a negative reinforcement feedback loop. More often than not, it will keep you from believing in your work, and yourself. I believe creatives should take a holistic approach to critique instead. It helps to recognize and appreciate when your own hard work leads to something you’re proud of. Whether that is a small detail in a larger piece, or another opportunity down the road. Your flaws in your work make it yours, so own them.
If you’re a perfectionist like myself, find peers that will positively reinforce your work. These people will soothe your perfectionist brain by making you feel that your work is worthwhile, but will also challenge you to improve. You must leverage your perfectionism to work for you, not against you. If you can manage to do that, maybe one day you’ll write a blog post and know how to end it.