Get It Done
Overcoming Perfectionism : A Few Words in Favor of Obsession

Get It Done

A Few Words in Favor of Obsession

By Sam Bennett

« Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

From time to time you, like every artist, ought to have the opportunity to dive full-on into a project that consumes you. To take on a project that scares you, that requires every last little bit of your energy, your concentration, and your excellence. That pushes you and your abilities to their very limits and forces you to transcend those limits. To exhaust yourself. To go a little nuts for your art. To live, eat, breathe, and dream it. And to see what happens.

For many, that opportunity came when we were in our twenties, and it’s a darn good thing, too, because that kind of single-minded energy is easier to summon (and much easier to recover from) when a body is young. But it’s worth trying it again sometime. Applying the full force of your artistry to a project when you’ve got some years of experience behind you can be a truly revelatory experience.

Obsession has its benefits, and even the most perversely detail-oriented form of perfectionism can yield brilliant results. But, hey, not everything is a Ukrainian Easter egg, and thinking you don’t want to start work because you’re concerned the project might take over your life is just another form of creative self-deprivation. The middle ground is fertile ground. After all, we’re looking to have a sustainable creative life.

Figuring out how to work moderately and also successfully is a problem worth solving.


Try replacing the word perfectionism with goodism.

Goodism is about acknowledging that good can be good enough. As in, “God looked and saw that it was Good.” I’m all for making things better. It’s an excellent use of critical-thinking skills. It’s a way to be in a state of continuous, intentional improvement. But goodism assumes that the current state of things is good, even while there is room to make them even, um, better.

But goodism knows when to stop. Unlike perfectionism, goodism just wants things to be as good as they can be. Goodism is reasonable. Goodism allows room for a good night’s sleep, three square meals a day, and the ability to concentrate on other people from time to time. You know, like your spouse and your friends and your children.

Goodism also allows for other people to do their own thing without your rushing in and putting your perfectionistic fingers all over everything.

Goodism recognizes that often someone else’s version of complete is done enough. Just because you would never dream of letting an un-proofread email or a sloppily formatted score out of your house doesn’t mean it’s wrong for someone else to. Sometimes expediency trumps tidiness. So maybe it’s time for us to put away our red pen and keep our eyes on our own paper — especially when we consider the arrogance that the desire to fix other people’s work implies. I’ve learned that I’d rather be at peace than right.

Start again: Overcoming Perfectionism »

Sam BennettThis article is from Get It Done by Sam Bennett. Copyright © 2014 by Samantha Bennett. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. More »


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