Pursuit of the Nearly Perfect

musings on perfection. photo by DOJ
Photo by Doj

The other day, I heard some magic words from a client. “It’s perfect–don’t change a thing!” These moments are understandably rare in a creative’s life. My client’s note gave me a high for the rest of the day. Perfect. But as amazing as those words are to hear, they got me thinking about my obsession with that word. Because I am obsessed.

Growing up, an A on an exam was never enough. It had to be an A+. Always, the highest possible grade. I wasn’t satisfied unless I saw a long row of them on a report card. And soon, that relentless need permeated into other aspects of my life. Is this boyfriend perfect? Is this dress “the one”? Is my home spotless? The problem with perfect is that there’s nowhere to go afterwards. You wonder if you’ve missed something along the way. You wonder what’s next. Not to mention that perfect is pretty darn rare–some might say impossible–to achieve.

Once I was out in the world, working for others, I found that design, art, and writing are a few fields where perfect doesn’t actually cut it. Though I’d labor over a book cover or a piece of writing, it was really that undefinable ingredient, that element of surprise, that would take a work to the next level. I could play by the rules, sticking to the style guide, taking art direction precisely, making every red-penned edit, but it was that messy, unexpected something that changed the whole landscape of the work.

Perfect is all well and good. The pursuit of it can make us better. But the failure of perfection is really where inspiration lies for me.

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