Progress through imperfection

Light blue pottery

When you focus on perfection in your craft you do yourself a disservice. When you think you are improving and creating something wonderful you are, in reality, weakening your skills, hindering your growth, and becoming the antithesis of what you aspire to.

I have been working on Walled City for a long time. It's had several incarnations all with the same basic goal, but built in different programming languages, and in different ways. I kept throwing away working code for silly reasons, all rooted in my desire for perfection. I threw away code because it was in the wrong language. Or because the code was ugly and poorly organized. I spent time reading and looking at other code to find the perfect way to organize and structure my application.

In short I wasted a lot of time on things that didn't matter very much. All software has faults. To try for perfection neglects what is good and working about the application today. I threw away working code for silly reasons. The end result was not a perfect Walled City, but a nonexistent one.

When you focus in on perfecting one piece of work you stop learn new lessons. You stop improving your skills. You end up looking too hard at a small piece and you neglect the whole. You stop looking forward to your goal, and you stop making improvements. Instead you work and rework one piece, or one part. You stop learning new lessons and you re-work the same lesson over and over.

You never really absorb the lesson and how it relates to the rest of your project. When you are too focused on a single part you stop improving the skills you need to finish.

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

Ray Bradbury

The less you put out into the world the less feedback you get. The less feedback you get the less you course correct. When you work on a project for a long time without feed back you risk moving in the wrong direction for too long. You hinder your growth as a creator. You hinder the growth of your project.

Feedback helps you create something people will want to engage with. Feedback helps you see holes there were previously blind to you. Feedback can be painful as it forces us to come to terms with our own imperfections. But it is priceless, if it is honest, and give us a unique viewpoint, different than our own, with which to shape our creative work. Feedback keeps the project growing.

“Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile.”

Ira Glass

You end up with nothing when you focus in on one piece of work and go over and over it again and again. You en up creating nothing. You have not finished your piece. No novel to hand to a publisher, no painting to show off in a gallery.

When you focus in and work for perfection you stop being an artist, you stop being a creator. You are not longer a programmer, you are no longer a musician. You are just someone moving bits around, you are just pretending. You are not longer a creator.

Focusing in on a project is a way to feel good about working on it, without having to risk finishing it. Never finishing a project is a way to avoid the risk of imperfection.

That's why perfection is a fake goal. It looks like perfection is what you want, when i reality it is taking you in the other direction by weakening your skills, hindering your growth and stealing your dreams.

Progress through imperfection by  
  creativity  perfection  learning 
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