Perfection’s Just a State of Mind

With my son passed out on the couch, my wife and I spent an evening watching a TV show called Breaking the Band. While illuminating, it tends to tell the same three-act story: Band forms,  Band excels, Band dies.

There are all sorts of reasons for this. Pressures leading to drug and alcohol abuse. Tragic accidents. But the seemingly number one cause?

Massive egos.

Those tend to be the primary driver behind a popular band’s riveting, nose-diving disintegration.

This particular episode featured The Smashing Pumpkins, those 90s rocker cats who were really talented, but relegated to the still-not-Nirvana bin.

What caught my ear and led to this post was the running thread of interviewees discussing Billy Corgan, the lead singer, and his characteristic perfectionism.

The guy was a control freak. He’d get so fed up with his band-mates’ “incompetence” during recording that he’d tell them to go home. Then he’d wind up playing all of their parts himself.

And while his way of working produced some brilliant songs for a little while, it eventually brought the band to a grinding halt.

There was something that one of the interviewees said which reached out and struck me as we watched:

Perfection’s just a state of mind.

Something can be said in a zillion different ways and all it takes is the right combination of words to strike the resonating chord. Humans are funny like that.

In the end, it was a “DUH” moment for me. This guy was right. That’s really all perfection is.

My perfect cheeseburger is not your perfect cheeseburger.

My perfect day is not your perfect day.

And my perfect story is not your perfect story.

So what’s the lesson?

Don’t let “perfect” get in the way of progress.

Do the best you can, learn from what you consider mistakes in your product, and then iterate.

In the end, you’re the only one you have to answer to. Are you happy with what you’ve done? Do you see an area of your writing which you know you can improve?

Practice (read: write) and try to do it just a little bit better.

But don’t try to do it perfectly.

For more on this crazy idea of perfectionism (seems to be a common human trait, but even more so among creatives), I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Pursuit of Perfection by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It will absolutely shift your perspective if you allow it.


4 thoughts on “Perfection’s Just a State of Mind

  1. Harvey StanbroughJuly 24, 2019 at 4:06 am

    Great post, Phillip. And absolutely spot-on. It’s always better to shoot for unique rather than perfect. And to achieve unique, you only have to write, publish and let it go. (grin).

    1. Thanks, Harvey. I like that idea–uniqueness over perfection. 🙂

  2. Definitely a good reminder. And I always believe if I keep pounding on good enough, every once in awhile, perfect will sneak up behind me.

    1. That’s the hope, Pam! 🙂

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