Perfection Isn’t Perfect


Creativity / Thursday, March 1st, 2018

No typos. That used to be the policy. I won’t say where but if you’re reading this and you recognize it, then that’s probably it.

Typos were evil and typos were a thing to cast out, or a reason to cast you out of the tribe, because you weren’t perfect. You had to be perfect if you wanted to be part of the tribe. You had to fit in. You had to have the same goal and the pursuit of perfection because that is what your identity and self-worth and business was based on. Being perfect. Not being better than others or what you were before, not evolving out loud in a way that could lift everyone up, but sticking and clenching to a state of being which involved perfection.

Except, perfection isn’t perfect. There’s some saying I heard before that a group of people (was it the Amish?) used to plan for imperfections in their work to show that they weren’t on the same level as God. Christian, religious, or atheist we often pursue perfection like it is possible.

The ending “tion” is used to form nouns meaning “the action of (a verb)” or “the result of (a verb)”. Words ending in this suffix are almost always derived from a similar Latin word; a few (eg. gumption) are not derived from Latin and are unrelated to any verb. “Perfect,” then, comes from Middle English perfit, from Old French parfit (modern: parfait), from Latin perfectus, perfect passive participle of perficere (“to finish”), from per-(“through, thorough”) + facere (“to do, to make”). (I’m not a linguist and I stole this from Wiktionary so if anyone is reading this and has a better definition, let me know.)

 

If you’re always going for perfection, your work is never finished. And you’ll never be enough.

If you’ve read any self-help article out there then you know that nearly every single one of those articles talk about why you shouldn’t pursue perfection. Because it makes you feel good to drop that ambition. Because it isn’t possible, so why pursue it?

Those are good articles. You should go back to your Chrome bookmarks and revisit them. As for me, perfection isn’t perfect is the thesis of my story. Because I’ve been writing these daily email newsletters to a private list, and I think I’ve had more typos and run-on sentences than I’ve ever had in my life before, and also the best reception I’ve gotten on my writing in a long time, and I love it.

Perfection isn’t perfect. In fact it can create a lot of problems if you try to pursue things that way. My husband, who does professional carpentry, says that typically the wisest direction is to leave something that is wrong, but easily fixable, when inspection comes around. That’s because inspectors, who themselves are in the pursuit of perfection by catching every mistake out there, can’t be perfect unless they spot an imperfection. And you can best believe that inspectors are going to keep looking until they find a mistake. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the Latin origin of inspector — inspectorus? — involves finding mistakes.) So even if you are trying to go for perfection it ends up being imperfect because they will find something.

I used to have a boss who would stop reading and send angry emails once he found a mistake on the first page.

And all it taught me was to put all my mistakes on the second page.

Not really, but you get the point. Anyone who has ever been under the thumb of someone who wants things done exactly the way they imagine it to be, who have been subject to the limitation game played, has felt that kind of fire to stand up and tell them that it doesn’t really matter.

My writing style has evolved these last few months of writing. I write more freely and with a lot less fear. Don’t worry, I still have a lot of fear to get around to. But I think the point is that last year I was still caught up in the mindset of editing myself because I thought what I wanted to write was what other people wanted to hear. What would get me the most views or claps or some other metric. But I write more now and edit less. I write what I want to read or hear about and if others like it too then that’s ancillary to what I want, and it makes me feel good too but it’s not what I’m going for. That’s why I ache to write because it makes me feel powerful and limitless.

Open Mat

That’s why things like jiu jitsu and Karate and writing and poetry are so attractive to me. It’s not simply about the fact that there is always something to improve on myself, but that there are so many factors outside of myself that are out of my control. On any given day you can be the one caught in a submission, a flurry of punches, or a lack of words and the next you could be invincible. Perfection is not perfect and that’s exactly where I don’t want to be. Because when I’m in perfection, it isn’t what I wanted at all.

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