As a photographer, there have been countless times I have left a spot I was taking photos of and thought of all the better ways I could have taken the picture. Sometimes I can go back and take the photo again, but other times the moment is gone. It’s the same situation when I’m writing a song or a poem; no matter how many times I revise, there’s always something it feels like I’m missing out on. What I’m missing out on is perfection, and one of the most important things my creative endeavors have taught me is how to strive for perfection while being okay with the knowledge that I will never quite get there.
We’re all seeking perfection in some way. It seems to be built into our DNA. We even have a word for it, perfectionism, and it usually has a negative connotation. I’ve heard it said that the difference between medicine and poison is in the dosage. I believe that to be the case with this gift/curse of perfectionism that we all have in varying degrees. Just the right amount of striving for perfection can help you achieve your best work, but too much can keep you from ever thinking something is finished, or keep you from starting the work to begin with. It can stretch you, or it can paralyze you. Let it bend you but not break you. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on my figurative flexibility every day.
My quest for the perfect picture, the perfect song, the perfect poem, has taught me to see the often-undiscovered beauty in the imperfect ones. On my best days, it even allows me to find the beauty in my flawed and imperfect life. In art and in life, you get what you get. You mold it into something as close to perfect as you can make it and then you put it out there for the world.
In one sense you failed, because no, it's not perfect; it will never be. But it’s the best of what you have to offer, and that’s a victory worth recognizing. Best of all, it means perfection is still out there somewhere to chase.