“Get it done and fix it later.” That’s what I’m always telling myself at work. Perfection is a noble goal, but production must happen first. There will be opportunities to fix my mistakes later down the line. But if my deadline rolls around and I don’t turn something in, my employers are going to ask why. And if I do it more than once, they might decide I don’t deserve a salary. With my livelihood at stake, I manage to meet my deadlines, even if I’m tired, distracted, bored, or sick, and even if I’m convinced that I’m doing the work poorly.
Now what I need to do is take that same discipline and translate it to more of my personal projects. As Jodi Picoult said, “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” That’s true. The things we create rarely seem as wonderful when we’re working on them as they did in our heads when we first envisioned them. But having done something, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as we planned, is still better than having done nothing.
The photo books that I make every year are a good example. I’m never fully satisfied with them. The pictures aren’t good enough. The layouts aren’t good enough. The text isn’t good enough. That’s the way it always goes. But when I’m done, I have something unique to look at and share. If I didn’t finish them, I’d have only the digital files on my computer, files in such quantity and disorder that they’re not much fun to look at.
This topic might seem an odd one given that I mailed a fiction contest entry yesterday. I accomplished something, yes, but the original goal was to write many stories and send the best. I only wrote two and sent one. The combined writing and editing took me a handful of hours. That’s all the writing (save for blog posts) that I did since declaring my goal last year. If writing were my job, I’d have fired myself long ago.
Comparing my personal accomplishments with my professional ones makes me sad. I get glowing reviews from my boss every year. She always says that I exceed her expectations even though her expectations continue to rise. So why can’t I be as productive for myself as I am for my employers?
Perfectionism is for people who have all the time in the world. I don’t. So I’m going to have to start saying it to myself more often—“Get it done and fix it later!”