There are a lot of perfectionists in the world. Perhaps you yourself are one of them, or know someone who is. Many famous people are perfectionists, especially artists of all stripes, honing their craft or whatever they are working on, striving for exactly the right sound or feel or look. Take Ralph Ellison. He wrote Invisible Man, a highly successful novel that was judged at one point as the best American novel since World War II (world wars being the demarcation point for literary eras, apparently). That was pretty much it. He published a collection of essays, but he was too much of a perfectionist to ever finish the sequel to his novel. He apparently had over 2000 pages written when he died, but wasn’t close to finishing it. He was even unsatisfied with Invisible Man, a book so remarkable that I didn’t entirely hate every word of it when I was forced to read it in high school (have no fear, I didn’t read all of it, but the parts I read weren’t excruciating like most of the rest, but especially Moby Dick and The Scarlet Letter, oh, and The Red Badge of Courage, god how I hated them). I can picture musicians being the same way, tweaking individual notes and sounds until just the right sound emerges.
What a horrible-sounding way to go through life.
I am not a perfectionist. Not even close. If I had to put a label on it, I’d have to call it Good-Enoughism. How is that sentence? Eh, good enough. Time to move on. I discovered this as I was musing in my car on the way home about nothing in particular. I then thought about the song that I was listening to and imagining the composer working on different sounds and vibes. I realized that, as much as I love music, I wouldn’t be good at it. Well, let me rephrase: I wouldn’t be great at it. I would hit a sound, and think, that’s good enough. I wouldn’t tweak it and go over it and try different things. Nope, I’d mentally and physically move on.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the same philosophy applies to nearly everything I do in life. My previous school years and work (actual job-type work) is one long string of good-enough, my painting skills (house painting, not oil or other painting) and approach to home repair are most definitely aimed at good enough, and even my writing is and has always been all about good enough. Sure, I’ll agonize over word choice from time to time, but for the most part I write the sentence I want to write. Could it be better? No doubt. But, hey if it’s good enough, that’s good enough for me.
Even this post. I was going to expound on it, make some literary references, throw in a few quotes and bon mots and witticisms, but you know what? I think it’s good enough.