More To That

An illustrated, long-form blog that delves deeper into the things that make us who we are.

Good Enough Is Just Fine

When I start on a new post, I’m off to the races.

completing a project quickly

Words connect, the creative juices flow, and I’m able to get a lot done.

flying up with a jetpack

But as I get closer to the end, things start slowing down dramatically.

struggling to finish a project

I scroll back and re-read what I’ve written.

Shit. Everything sounds terrible.

All of it makes no sense. None of the concepts stand out. I feel like I need to revise the whole thing.

As these thoughts bombard my brain, my once-confident pace slows to an exhausting crawl.

crawling toward the end

Perfectionism is when the last 5% of a project feels like 95% of the work.

It’s when you feel like you’re close to the finish line, but you won’t allow yourself to cross it. It’s when you obsess over every last word, every little brushstroke, every final note. It’s the belief that what you have now doesn’t fit the vision you had, so you must work tirelessly to get there.

Perfectionism is the inability to let your expectations go.

holding onto expectations

The project status bar makes the most sense when we view it alongside this gradation of expectations.

In the beginning, you don’t have any expectations because you haven’t created anything yet. No one expects a blank notebook to be their next bestseller.

When you face a fresh canvas, it’s easy to try out all kinds of ideas. This allows you to build things quickly without much hesitation, and without much expectation:

having no expectations

But as your ideas stack on top of one another, a recognizable theme begins to develop. Narrative arcs start taking shape. Points connect with other points, and there’s an expectation for them to keep connecting with more.

A body of work slowly builds, which is exciting. You’re not quite sure what the end result will be, but you start developing the expectation that it’ll at least be something interesting:

having some expectations

As you venture into the last quarter of the status bar, shit gets real. You now have something concrete to share with others, and there’s a central concept you want to convey. You’ve invested a lot of time, so naturally, your expectations start running quite high:

having high expectations

But it is toward the upper end of this phase where perfectionism can run wild.

For perfectionists, the last 5% of the status bar is the bane of their existence. It is when they’ve set themselves against not just high expectations, but impossible ones:

having impossible expectations

There are many reasons why perfectionism can manifest. It could be the fear of failure. It could be the fear of disapproval. It could even be a form of procrastination, acting as an excuse to delay finishing a project.

But ultimately, perfectionism is the result of an unattainable vision. The hands cannot recreate the idealized blueprints of the mind, no matter how hard we try. Perfectionists try to ignore this reality, but doing so will always result in a chase that never ends.

Creativity is largely about accepting that we are always a work in progress, and that no individual project has a definitive beginning or end. It’s the understanding that our creative potential is defined by the blending of our work to create a general trend, which we hope is progressing in the right direction.

Perfectionism cuts this trendline short by refusing to add more nodes to it. Since each project can only be released after it crosses some phantom finish line, nothing will ever come out. The illusion of the 100% completion bar keeps creativity from progressing, and stifles our growth as a result.

100% complete

This is why we must view our status bar not just through the lens of expectations, but also the ease in which we can let our work go. I visualize this as a mountain that culminates in a narrow peak of perfection. Each layer corresponds to a stage that is defined by our expectations, and the narrower the layer, the less output you get from that area:

mountain of perfection

Of all these layers, the sweet spot is the area of Good Enough.

good enough

Let’s first clarify what Good Enough is not.

Good Enough is not shitty work. It’s not a half-assed attempt to create something just to get it out there. It’s not about releasing work that you know needed more time and thought.

Instead, Good Enough is when you’ve done the hard work to get it to 95%, but you understand that it’s okay to let it go. It’s the ability to recognize that 100% is a construct of the mind, and pursuing it will take you away from exploring other areas of interest.

Good Enough is when you know that the work isn’t perfect, but it still respects the intellect of your audience. It’s not exactly what you envisioned, but it’s still damn good enough to deserve their investment of attention.

Some of my posts on this site have taken me over a hundred hours to do. This one on calming anxiety took at least twice that number. It’s important for me to create work that respects the attention of my readers.

Despite this, I haven’t released a single post that I thought was at 100%. When I finished the most popular post I’ve ever done, I remember thinking that it was at around 95% when I hit publish.

As a creator, you will never feel that your work is complete. You can only get it to a point where it feels right to let it go. And letting go is the only way to start something else that will further your creative progress.

What we lack in perfection can be made up for with consistency.

Good Enough is what allows us to move on and try again.


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Related Posts

Originality is one Good Enough after another:

The Creator and the Crowd: Originality’s Balancing Act

This is how I apply the concept with my writing practice:

Write for Yourself, and Wisdom Will Follow

Keep the creativity chain going, and any leap will be possible:

The Day You Decided to Take the Leap

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