Anyone who’s ever started a project that they were really passionate about is familiar with the pressure of wanting something to come out perfect. This is especially true when the task involves a skill that you feel like you mastered. I remember when someone asked me to perform a spoken-word piece at an event that they were having for Valentine’s day. They requested that the poem be a powerful piece about Black Love. The request was prefaced with:
“I was at a show that you did recently and your work is truly phenomenal. Your style of writing and performance is EXACTLY what we’re looking for to bring this event to life.”
Of course, it always feels good to receive praise and adulations for your craft but there was this voice in the back of my head saying “You better come up with the perfect piece because that’s what’s expected. Perfection.” Naturally, I accepted the request to perform at this event and write a poem on Black Love. I had two months to write and prepare for the show. Of those two months, most of my time was spent tossing out poems that weren’t perfect enough, scratching out the lines that I didn’t like as much, and pushing my notebook across the desk out of frustration. I was looking for the perfect piece to fall out of heaven and on to my paper.
The reality is there’s no such thing as perfect. That’s right, I said it. Perfect is merely the idea of something being done at an appropriate time and in an appropriate space with little to no conflict during its occurrence. Perfect has nothing to do with being flawless. But we consistently burden ourselves with the idea of being a master and not allowing space for error all in the name of perfection.
Having a talent is similar to having a hard skill, like plumbing or electric work. When someone hires a plumber to fix their kitchen, I don’t think the plumber puts so much pressure on himself. He knows that the pipes and screws should be secured, it’s like 2+2 to him. That’s how we should treat our talents. Get from underneath the pressure of being perfect by looking at your talents like a hard skill. You already know how to do this. It’s only a matter if what you do fits the time and the space you want to do it in. If it does, then all you have to do is what you know how to do. Forget about perfect. Thinking about perfect gets in the way of actually creating something that’s perfect.
It was a week before the Valentine’s Day event and I had a draft of a poem that I wasn’t crazy about and my fiancé said something that changed my whole perspective. She said, “sometimes done is better than perfect.” That’s when I realized that my poems were already perfect it was just a matter of believing they were and performing with that same confidence. The event came and I performed and everyone applauded and when the host returned to the stage she said: “that was perfect...” I smiled because that’s when it clicked,
Perfection is not something that you accomplish by stressing yourself out to make sure that the project comes out “right.” Instead, it’s the belief that you already have the skills that you need to complete this project in such a way that it is good enough for the time and space that it will live in, whether permanently or temporary.