Last week, on the very last day of 2013, I was having a discussion with someone about perfectionism. I am--oftentimes to my detriment but sometimes to my credit--a perfectionist. The question that was posed to me was why be a perfectionist when you innately know that nothing is perfect.
I've never had the question put to me like that before and my response actually surprised myself. I said: the thing is that there are things that are perfect to me. And those things are generally works of art: books, movies, pieces of music. I immediately thought about how the Harry Potter series, Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones's Diary, The Westing Game were works that I found flawless. Movies like West Side Story, When Harry Met Sally and The Sound of Music. Songs like "Here Comes the Sun," "Landslide," "The Way You Make Me Feel," and even "Toxic."
Do I know that not everyone loves these things the way that I do? Of course. People even hate them. Do I care? No. That means they aren't inherently perfect. They are just perfect to me. They make me laugh, they make me cry, or they just put me in a better mood because they make me dance (I'm looking at you, Brit). Some of them make me examine my life through their lens, and some of them just let me escape reality entirely for a while.
So when I pursue perfectionism in my own work, I think that's really what I'm after. Can I create something that means something to somebody out there in this great, big world? Not everybody, just somebody. And how can I do that without fine-tuning it over and over again, trying to make it the best it can possibly be, even seeking something that doesn't exist? That is the one thing I don't think I can turn off, that I think I owe to my potential somebody.
The way I see it, the time, energy and passion that you put into creative work is what I think is reflected back, and always at a dimmer wattage then what you put in. I think that's why I'm always trying to carve out the brightest story I can. So that maybe, in the reflection, it can still give somebody some light.
Now the answer to whether I will continue to drive myself crazy while doing that is...of course. But, then again, I have it on good authority that a very many of my creative heroes put in a lot of hard work to create my very favorite things. I'm so grateful they did.