Done over perfect.
On the wall behind my camera is a giant yellow sticky note that reads, “DONE OVER PERFECT.” I put it there as a reminder that my desire for things to be just so can get in the way of me putting my work out into the world. The array of notes stuck to my walls are meant to refocus me on what matters. Because as much as I want the videos, audio, and puppetry I’m creating to be of a certain caliber, it’s not essential to my work being successful.
Over the past seven months, I have adjusted and readjusted my expectations of what I’m working on. From the amount of time it will take me to complete a project phase to the finesse of the work itself, the line between “do it again” and “good enough” is always moving. At numerous times throughout this process, I’ve wondered if I should abandon what I’m working on; if I’ve completely misjudged what “good enough” actually is.
While I am all too aware of the standards I have set for my work, I am also aware that many of the things I’m doing, I’m doing for the first time. Which was an intentional choice. By working in mediums I’m unfamiliar with, I hoped to undermine my unrealistic expectations of perfection. So, there’s the possibility that what I’m creating is actually bad art. And when I accept that possibility, it frees me up to lower the bar and get back to work.
As creatives, we are expert hiders. We hide behind perfectionism, carelessness, self-sabotage, and/or a scarcity narrative. While there are as many reasons for this as there are artists in the world, in some ways at least, our compulsion to hide comes down to a longing to avoid the difficult. Because we are human and making art is hard work. It’s hard emotionally, somatically, interpersonally, cognitively, morally, spiritually, and financially.
Because making art is hard work, a dedicated part of our creative process needs to include how we clear the path so that showing up is that much easier. As much as we might want to focus only on the work itself, if the resistance is in the way of us starting, then we must begin by addressing the resistance first. We must begin by seeing clearly the ways we are hiding and then develop the capabilities and awareness we need to be able to step out into the light.
When I look at the sticky note on the wall behind my camera, I stop to think about what it will feel like to finish my first big creative project in six years. I then weigh that feeling against any criticism, disinterest, and/or negative financial repercussions that may come my way as a result of completing this work. And every time, I choose to keep going. Because I know that however imperfect this project might be, the satisfaction of being done will make it worth it in the end.
So, how does your desire for perfection get in the way of your work?