Perfection is where good ideas go to die.
The image glows in front of me. It’s hues and layers burned into my retina as I try different variants. My throat’s dry from the lack of water, my joints feel creaky from being in one position too long. I draw a sharp breath, something churned in the inner belly of the metal beast, the beast that holds the key to my 11 hr stint, the beast that allows me to see my captured images, larger than life, surreal. It’s manner changes, the screen echos it’s mechanical stuttering with a reduced contrast visual warning, the cursor spins precariously, a blue whirl pool, drawing in my attention, my breath, my work. I freeze, an autonomous response to a would be hazard, a lingering mannerism from a past only my genes recall. Pupils dilated, breathing shallow, I wait for the churning within the machine to cease, or relent.
Utter, blood curdling rage.
Anger pulses through my veins, I focus on not instinctively lashing out, the work I had done over the last 3 hours, lost, to some unknown, micro-glitch in the magnificent technology I take for granted.
Pacing now, I stare venomously at the screen. The traitorous nonchalance of the blue light emanating from the screen utterly defying my emotional responses, sitting, waiting like a good dog for it’s treat.
All that work.
All that time.
I sigh, turn off the PC, and walk over to my treadmill. The clock says 2AM, I realise that the constant thud-thud-thud and whir of the moving carpet might be a tad too, sonorous, for the sleeping family.
Resigned I head to the kitchen, drink a cool glass of water, and trudge to bed, mind numbed from losing the nights efforts.
This isn’t solely my story, and yes, we can all be a little guilty of this too, the fact is, as creatives we tend to be a little on the perfectionist side, and this can take it’s toll.
Never let perfection be the enemy of good enough ~ Bastardized paraphrasing of Casey Neistat, who bastardized paraphrased someone else.
In the morning the somber reality flowed over me as I drank my coffee. With a few tweaks of the existing backup, I could do the majority of what took me 3 hours in 30 mins. That perfection I was looking for wasn’t to be seen, but a killer image had emerged, somewhat unscathed.
3 Signs you are heading down the rabbit hole.
Perfection is a cruel and merciless master. It’ll have you zoomed into 300% hand drawing outlines on random non important details, or over working an image in photoshop till you can’t recognize your original pixels. Don’t let this happen to you, learn to spot the signs of being a perfectionist.
Sign 1: It’s been almost ready, forever.
Yeah, 5 more minutes, just one more thing, hang on I have to tweak xyz. Give yourself a break, if you find yourself using these terms, sit back and assess your creative project like this:
If I was the boss paying someone to do this, is the employee taking too long or too focused on 1 specific point. Will anyone else notice if xyz doesn’t get addressed.
Sign 2: Taking way too long to deliver something.
We get you’re an artist, but hurry the fuck up! I remember hearing this, thinking, if they only knew how hard I’ve worked on this! But the reality is your work is pretty unique and awesome already, there comes a point of diminishing returns, what this means is longer timelines on your projects doesn’t necessarily mean better results. I clarify to clients timelines, projects aren’t to be rushed, and I leave a couple days “baking” period for every image, this allows me to look with fresh eyes to see if I made a mistake somewhere down the line. But after that, I send out the image. Working with a retoucher has made me even more efficient, Phil works the image, I place finishing touches, let it rest then ship it out. DELIVERED right is the highest priority.
Sign 3: I’ll have to start over!!
This ones the doozy, you work your ass off and create something that you would be proud of, but something keeps driving you to higher levels, you want more!! You look with disdain, tear it up and start over. This is the artists foible and can seriously harm productivity, overall progress and artists reputation. Your work is the WORST it’ll ever be when you start, it’ll only get better. This applies to projects, and artistic works alike. As you get better, your work will too. This is a good thing, and a natural progress. Learn from your failures! The fact you are failing means you’re trying to get better. Love them! Hug them! Call them George. What ever you do, don’t throw out your failure, let it bake, you might be surprised at how many of my images in the portfolio section were in the trash for a few days.
Perfection is often sought as a highest complement, yet it holds the largest amount of unseen amazing working. Don’t let the trappings of your ideas of perfect ruin your artistic creations. Make good work, and share it!