And What About Perfectionism?
Written by Adok
In the previous article, I told you that there are some attitudes and ways of working you can find in all parts of life. As an example, I mentioned minimalism and explained what it means. In the end, we came to the conclusion that although the word 'minimalism' is often used in a negative way, minimalism itself is not a bad thing. We even realized that minimalism is a way of art. Now, in this article, I want to introduce you another attitude: perfectionism.
What pops into your mind if you hear the word perfectionism? At first it sounds like the contrary of minimalism. But that's wrong. You can be minimalistic and perfectionistic at the same time; yes, you can even be perfectionistic at minimalism. And like minimalism is often used in a negative way, perfectionism also makes you first think of something very positive. However, like it is with minimalism, with perfectionism the contrary is often the case, too.
What is perfectionism at all? My dictionary even has a definition of it: Perfection is "striving for (outer) perfection". So a perfectionist is someone who strives for perfection, mostly outer perfection, i.e tries to look perfect in front of the others, to lead a perfect life, and, if we relate it to the scene, tries to make perfect productions.
This still sounds positive. So what are the negative points about being perfectionistic?
Perfectionists often focus in details and waste a lot of time on them, so that in the end these details are perfect but the whole result isn't. Did you understand me? If not, let's take writing an article as an example:
You have an idea about what to write, make a concept and start writing. You write one sentence, then you read through this sentence again and see that something disturbs you about it. Then you re-write that sentence and afterwards continue writing. Some time later you make another break and re-read the last few sentences. You spot another thing that doesn't seem to be perfect to you. So you spend again some time to fix that passage. Then you might notice a spelling error, a little grammatical mistake or you are not sure if you placed a word correctly in the sentence. You take a dictionary and look up for the correct spelling of the word, or a grammar book and re-read the rule how to arrange the words in an English sentence. You fix these mistakes and continue writing.
After a few more sentences you make a break and see that the style of your article sucks. Maybe you repeat too many sentences that start with the same words. Or you think that your article sounds a bit lame and the readers might think that you aren't that cool scener you want them to believe. Or you have heard about an English word that would fit into this situation, but you don't remember it at once.
Instead of expressing your thoughts in maybe more or longer sentences but with words you know, you waste more time with getting the dictionary and looking up the word. Then you get back to the last few sentences again and change them. When finished, you resume writing and write a few sentences again before you spot another error. And so on.
In the end, if you have managed to finish the article at all, you read through the whole article again. And you will be shocked how much it sucks indeed. Since you didn't write this article in one rush and spent too much time on perfectionizing details, the article sounds completely different from what you intended. It looks as if it won't create the desired effect at the reader, which it would have created if you hadn't cared about those spelling errors and 'lame' expressions but have written the article in one rush.
After all, why do you have an editor? The diskmag's editor will correct such little spelling and stylistic mistakes anyway. If you are an editor yourself, it is also better if you first write your article in one rush and then later, maybe on the next day, check it for spelling mistakes and little errors. Most readers won't notice these tiny errors anyway because what they care about is the CONTENT. A perfectionist who wastes his writing time on details will lose the content out of his eye. That is bad.
You can also write texts with a good content in this perfectionistic way, though. However, what is if you have to change your article later, e.g. if you have realized that your information is outdated?
I know everything what I write here from my own experience. In older Hugi issues, I have started writing the news sections very early. Every time when something changed or a new news arrived, I updated the news about the concerned group, added the new facts and removed obsolete older news. That proved not to be so good afterwards.
I had to rewrite most passages in the news about a group when there was a major change. So if I had written a good text about this group first, this wasn't worth anything in the end because the whole text was destroyed by the new facts in between or lose its effect.
Example: I get to hear that someone has joined some group. I write a news text like "On this or that day, this or that person has joined. He/she is a famous...", perfectly describing this person and how he/she came to that group. Later, before the release of the next Hugi issue, I get to know that this person has already left, and I have to re-write the whole passage. That makes the time I have invested in formulating the 'joining news' kind of obsolete.
I solved this problem, by the way, by steadily collecting the news and making a news corner out of it only short before the release of the next Hugi issue. This also guarantees that I don't omit news, just because I didn't have the time to formulate the news texts right after getting the news.
But let's return to our actual topic, perfectionism. What I explained by the example 'writing an article' also applies to many other things. Just look at demos. If you try to perfectionize details, i.e single effects, and forget to care about the demo as a whole, the demo probably won't be accepted by its audience too well. What is missing, can be summarized in one word: it's the so often-quoted design.
Some people say that design is the most important aspect in a demo and that demos with good effects and good design are better than demos with excellent effects but no design.
This only confirms what I said: If you try to be perfect at details, you might lose track of the production as a whole. Being less perfect but concentrating on your work as a whole may be better than being perfect at details but having obvious lacks in your work as a whole.
If you make a diskmag: Being less perfect at single articles but trying to make the diskmag good in general may be better than having one perfectly written article but apart from that only much below-average content. Most readers won't notice the good articles among the many not-so-good ones.
If you want to be perfect, then you have to be really perfect. That means: Concentrate both on the details and on the work as a whole! That, of course, is the optimum. Then perfectionism is a good thing for sure, and if you manage to do so, you are really admirable - because it's almost impossible.