Sunday, February 25, 2024

Opinion: The Trouble with Perfection

Every single artist I know is a perfectionist.

Without fail, each one will spend hours honing their craft- whether it’s preparing for a performance, fixing a minute detail on a contour or stitch, or running around moments before the audience arrives on opening night to correct that one particular light sequence so it matches an indescribable vision.

Perfectionists. All of us.

For clarity, this isn’t a bad thing. The strive for perfection in artistry is what encourages the extraordinary. The hours of practice, the ideal stitch, the interaction of actor and lighting- it all works together to create magical moments that we live for. That sustain us.

We’re also taught that perfection is required to operate at the highest level possible. That in order for our art to be taken seriously by funders, audiences and fellow artists, every step, brushstroke and hair needs to be flawless. And if we aren’t able to achieve it, we’re somehow less deserving of credibility or recognition as a creator.

What is the cost of this drive for perfection? Specifically, how often do we let the desire for perfection outweigh artistry? How often do we let the push for perfection deter us from creating magic- albeit maybe not quite in the way we are expecting? 

In the drive for perfection, we often forget to take chances. We forget to truly be in a moment, or of the moment as we search for that perfect note, perfect light and the flawless execution of our vision. When that happens, we disconnect from the reality of the moment we attempted to create, losing those who are present with us in the creation of art. We stop growing. Inspiration loses us. And too often, the joy we strove to achieve in the first place loses us too.

Often, the execution of our vision requires perfection. And as artists, we demand it of ourselves. But what “good enough” was enough? What if our vision wasn’t just about our minds and experiences, but those outside of ourselves? 

I assure you, the audience won’t realize if one stitch is off. If one note, for a brief moment, is a little sharp; or if the actor is a half step away from their mark. And it’ll be okay. As the saying goes, the show will go on. It’s us- the artists, the creators- that realize it. That won’t let it go. That need it to be perfect.

The drive for perfection is a scary thing to let go of. Taking a risk is, well, risky. Being involved and in the moment requires a different type of vulnerability than offering your art at its highest form. But imagine that payoff.

I’d take it over perfection anyday.  

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