Speaking only for myself, but I find it’s important to find a workable balance between perfection and compromise. I was responding on a classical guitar forum earlier tonight and it got me to thinking about this problem in more detail. Not only how it affects facets of our lives, but, since this is primarily a writing blog, how that dynamic between perfection and compromise can affect our art.
This came home to me last week before a guitar lesson lesson. I was home practicing “Malagueña” in the bedroom. Someone poked their head in the door and said, “That was really good.”
I thanked her and said it was kind of hard for me because of all the triplets. But later I wondered about this. She was being honest. She thought it was good. But for myself…all I could hear were mistakes.
Later, I had a lesson with my classical guitar teacher and related this experience. He said it was normal and while he didn’t use the phrase “find a balance between perfection and compromise” he meant as much.
I told him all could hear were the mistakes. I told him all I ever heard were the mistakes. He also said ordinary people listening to you play the guitar don’t always “hear” the mistakes you make. Not in the sense you, as the player, does. That’s not what they are listening for. He told me a story how he had performed on stage and honestly believed he had played the worst he ever had. Yet people in the audience, and one of them was a Big Names Musician, told him he was very good.
I thought about this and I imagine there might be some truth to it. Of course, you will always have severely critical people who will find fault with everything you do. I am very critical of myself as I related earlier. When it comes to writing, or playing the guitar, or anything else, you have to find a balance between perfection and compromise.
An excellent example of perfection gone wrong is when you meet a writer who has been working on the same story without moving on. They keep rewriting it, editing it, “perfecting” it. The result is the story never gets finished and never gets sold.
And when it doesn’t get sold it doesn’t get read.
Now I am not saying you should write a story and throw it out on its little baby feet and expect it to run a marathon. But there comes a point in editing and rewrites where you reach diminishing returns.
Every successful professional writer I know, every one of them, writes a story, makes it as good as they possibly can, and then moves on. They never obsess over that one story trying to perfect it into a diamond. Yes, they spend time on it, they sweat blood and tears over it, they open their hearts to it, but they reach a point where they know it’s time to move on and they do.
Every successful writer I know writes a story so he can move on to the next one. That’s their main goal. The next story. That’s what they are always thinking about. That’s what is always on their horizon.
I think it behooves us as artists to be aware of our limitations and strive to correct them and work through them. That’s what I’m trying to do right now with my classical guitar playing. I already do it with my writing.
I am not always successful, but I am going to keep trying. If you truly believe in your artistry, failure is not an option. It can’t be.