Yes, there are a few mistakes. No it isn’t perfect. But it’s all work in progress, right?
Perfection. Aren’t we all striving for it? Some of more than others perhaps, but perfection is a nagging friend (or foe?), it is like that whispering, vicious little voice that sometimes pipes up at the back of your mind.
You could do better. It’s not good enough. Start again. There is so much better than you…
Recently, it has taken me a lot of effort to shut this voice down, enough so I can focus on a task without feeling like it is worthless or pointless. Some days are more successful than others but as long as you can produce something, you’ll be fine. As long as you can stop treading water and move along, you’ll be fine. Stagnating waters suck you in.
“Why bother when it will never be perfect? Why make the effort when it is likely to fail?”
Perfection shouldn’t be a goal because it will never be achieved. It’s like happiness. Both ephemeral concepts, quickly replaced by my greedy friend “more”. “More money, more words, more changes, more attempts” When do we draw the line? When is a novel finished? When is a composition perfect? When is a recording flawless? How many times can I tweak my plot until it becomes ridiculous?
Being a writer is tough. But so is being a pianist. A designer. A lamp-maker…. I remember my piano lessons and Madame Boyer. To this day, I present her as the best piano teacher in the whole wide world. But if I think it through, she was a perfectionist. A strict yet loving perfectionist.
Less pedal, you’re drowning out the melody, sing it in your head, don’t speed up or I’ll bring out the metronome, don’t forget you’ve got a forte here, feel the power, long, heavy chords, one, two, three, one, two, three, careful with the tempo, Allegro, not Vivace, slow down, one, two, three, I think it’s time for the metronome, be precise, your arpeggios need to be lighter, clearer, like you’re flying above the keyboard, keep your back straight, your shoulders down, be natural, poised, don’t shrug, again, start again, I don’t want to hear that natural, it’s a sharp, watch your fingers, your left hand is falling behind, your tremolo isn’t rapid enough, I know you’re tired, but let’s do it once more, one, two, three, one, two, three…
Has she passed this on to me? The probability is high. But without perfectionism, I would not have spent countless hours practising before a concert, exam or competition. Without perfectionism, I would not have endeavoured to learn a 20-page long piece by myself and repeated it, bar by bar, until my ears were content and my fingers were on fire.
Without perfectionism, I would not have written over 140,000 words and rummaged through every single book there is about Moroccan tribes, colonialism and Saharan stories in the British Library. I would not have woven a plot so complex even I lose track sometimes.
Does this mean I have finished this novel? No. Does this mean I have full control over it? Afraid not. This is why perfection needs to be tuned down. It needs to go down from fortissimo to just forte and at times, maybe even mezzo-forte.
So in the end, is perfection friend or foe? What do you say?