The Perfection Fallacy

Desert with text
Perfection is a mirage; let the idea of it move you forward, but don’t expect to ever reach it.

While in the midst of a project, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the mindset that something isn’t complete until it is “perfect”. You continue to pound away at it with the goal of it matching the ethereal vision that exists in your head. This tactic can be infuriating and is practically impossible.

When working on something, it can be so easy to expect to reach a point where you can say “it is done!” The problem arises from your intimate familiarity with your project; there is always a color to correct, or a knob to tweak, or a gap to fill.

It is hard to remember that people don’t see your art the same way you do. They have their own history of experiences and knowledge and will see what you’ve created very differently than how you view it. No piece of art will ever please everyone because your idea of perfection differs greatly from everyone else’s.

You’ve spent dozens or hundreds of hours digging around in the minutiae of your project. Other people often first experience your art holistically without really absorbing all the little details. Beyond that, people don’t have the same knowledge and skills that you have. Will they really care that the colors aren’t perfectly complimentary or the lowpass filter on the bass is a bit too wide? Probably not.

This can also be related to a fear of failure. It is dangerous to think that if you put something without perfecting every aspect of it, it will be received poorly because it lacks those tiny adjustments. These might be only considered flaws by you, other people might consider them improvements to the project as a whole.

Sometimes you just need to let your project go and see where it flies. Get feedback from friends and fans and learn how to make the next one better. Spending years of your life twiddling knobs or moving words around trying to make one thing “perfect” is a lot of time wasted where you could be making other things. Most creative people have a huge backlog of projects and ideas just waiting for their chance in the spotlight, make sure you give it to them!

Of course, this isn’t an excuse to make lazy or low-quality art. There comes a point when you are satisfied with 99% of the project and you can’t get that last 1% figured out. Learning to tell when something is “good enough” and move on to the next thing is an important skill to have.

This really relates heavily to a prior post about how inspiration is a byproduct of failure. All those imperfections you notice can be fuel for your next endeavor! With the knowledge you’ve gained from this project, you can make the next one bigger and better with a less effort.

Have you been sitting on something for far too long? Making small tweaks every few days and expecting it all to just click together into perfection? It might be a good idea to consider releasing it and putting it out into the world. It won’t be perfect and that’s OK.

Plus, now that something is out there, you’ve set the bar for yourself. Time to raise it.

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