I’m a perfectionist.
Many people are. You might be one, too.
Everything needs to be refined, even, and balanced in my life. If you were to knock me over with a left-hook, I’ll (probably first apologize for getting in the way of your first, and then) ask you to throw a right-hook, too, for good measure.
Perfectionism has a lot of upsides. It lends me a meticulous lens that I can utilize to comb through a project and easily spot errors or missteps that are distracting or unsatisfactory.
I’ve worked on many creative projects over the years, and some were even in videography. I would spend hours scrubbing over the same seven seconds of film on iMovie, simply adjusting the accompanying audio by a fraction of a second or decibel.
To anyone else, the minute changes were unnoticeable. To me, it made everything different. It was what, in my mind, turned a mediocre product into a great one.
Now, I’m in no means going to convince anyone, or myself, that I am a professional in any field (yet!). Despite this, however, I know that it is my close attention to detail and refusal to accept mediocrity that has set me apart from my peers for most of my life.
I thought college might strip away my need for perfection, but, if anything, it heightened that craving.
Here’s the problem, though. I am a perfectionist pursuing a passion in an artform that is anything but perfect. In fact, it’s the imperfections of creative writing that make me love it so dearly.
Truly, though, I love it. I crave it. The deep reccesses of my mind are constantly at work, racing to achieve some form of perfection that could never exist. I could work for centuries on a single novel, writing and rewriting, editing and revising, burning it down in a frenzy and building it back up again. But it would never be perfect.
There is always a better draft waiting.
Writing is my passion because it’s never perfect. Every draft is living and breathing, begging to be made better by you. There is some supernatural force that forbids a piece from attaining perfection. And that’s okay.
I know that I’ll never achieve the perfect draft that I’m striving for, and that thought maddens me. It maddens creatives everywhere. I think that’s such a large part of why so many people give up on their creative inspirations. The pressure seems insurmountable, to know when to quit, to know when to give up, to know when what you’ve done is finally just good enough.
That supernatural force that forbids a piece from attaining perfections? His name is Paul. Paul is my greatest enemy and I will forever detest his existence. But, like any good archenemy, he makes me better.
Paul and I exchange subliminally aggressive tête-à-têtes regularly. I produce something, and, invariably, he will make me painfully aware of every error or misstep that I’ve made thus far. He tells me to come back to him when it’s better. So, I cuss him out and return to work.
My revisions are often worse than the initial draft. Paul makes quick work of that. Over time, Paul and I begin to reach a stalemate of sorts. I question whether I’m really the one to write this story. Maybe I’d just be better off selling this idea to someone on the street. I question whether I’m really the one to write at all.
Paul isn’t all bad. Sometimes, he visits and plants a pristine kiss upon my head and tells me that I’ve done all I can. And that’s okay.
Nothing has to be perfect. Somewhere, along the lines, we’re taught that things should be perfect, but why? Isn’t it more fun — more real — to recognize the imperfections within a text, a film, a painting, a production, and appreciate the very human attributes that the imperfection reflects?
I learn and grow from experiencing failure (as do most people), and so, I want to move beyond the nagging sense of perfectionism that burrows into my brain while I work.
Life is a lot like an essay or short story or script. There is always a better draft waiting. I don’t know what revision I’m on; there have been far too many. But that’s okay. Reworking, redoing, rewriting is important. I know that I’ll never achieve a true final draft, nor will anyone else. Everything, really, is one gargantuan work-in-progress.
If you catch someone struggling with perfection, kindly remind them that it doesn’t matter. Everyone reaches their respective levels of perfect at different points. What really matters, though, is that the person is proud of their work, and that they’d do it all again if it meant experiencing the wonder of growth one more time.
If you catch me struggling with perfection, kindly knock me over with a left-hook. And don’t forget to add the right-hook in for good measure.
Oh, My Word! Jacob wrote this essay with as little revisions as he could. He says doing so was rather excruciating. He hopes that if you notice any imperfections in the text, that you appreciate them. He’s not a robot, and that’s okay. At least you know that there’s a real human writing these blog posts.
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Oh, My Word! is a weekly updated blog featuring fiction, poetry, drama, and essays for the world. #OhMyWordWednesdays
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