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Niki Pilkington Carpe That Fucking Diem

Niki Pilkington

Shyness is nice. Shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to.
The Smiths

See also perfectionism. Oh, what a royal pain being a perfectionist is…

When I worked at one company, my manager asked me to use my proofreading skills on a bunch of marketing materials. However, when I pored over the awful grammar, syntax, basic English, and my red pen for editing became but a blur, she told me to stop. I was taking too long. She said she liked the way a girl from another department did it because it got back to her in good time. I pointed out that it returned filled with many of the mistakes it went away with. Apparently, this was OK. The deadline was more important than the quality. I was shocked because this was a company concerned with education. The nation’s sometimes sorry standard of English was explained in that instant…

I hate to admit this, but I can now see her point. Not to that extreme, no way, but there’s a point where you’re just indulging perfectionism and denying any other valid parameters such as the deadlines or other pressing work. It’s just not terribly effective or productive to be a perfectionist ad absurdum. Where’s the point of a well turned out piece of copy if only a bunch of cockroaches and bacteria are putting their specs on to read it?

The other downside to this curse is the opposite of never finishing anything, and that’s never starting it for fear of not delivering something dazzling, spectacular, perfect. It’s the shackles of creativity.

There is hope in the form of a happy medium. You can have good standards living in harmony with productivity. Here are a few points to help you get over yourself!

1. Set yourself goals with time limits.

An example for me is having loads of photos in a submission to choose from. They’re all gorgeous, so I agonise over which ones are best, which ones would my readers find most helpful, what if I’ve chosen ones that aren’t going to be in some perfect combination of the two??! Then I give up, a bit deflated that I’ve done, really, sod all. I go back to it again a few days later, and the same happens. I fear making choices that aren’t the best. Useless!

I’ve started to set a timer for 20 mins, after which the final selection has to have been made. It really, really works. Pretend you’re on The Crystal Maze, or something, and your prize depends on a speedy delivery. And for the future, I’ll be specifying fewer images in the submission. The photographer will know which are the best in terms of composition, etc., and I’ll then come in with what’s great for my readers from that selection. Done. Publish. Move on.

2. Grunge and punk got the job done

These two musical genres are awesome. Fact. Their aim was never perfection, it was to express and produce. Three chords, with punk in particular, played badly a lot of the time, made for musical movements so groundbreaking and everlasting. Richey from the Manic Street Preachers couldn’t even play his guitar. Jarvis Cocker would never win The Voice, nor would Morrissey, nor would Kurt Cobain. I’m all over the place with my genres there, but you get the point. Perfectionism in music is anodyne X Factor crap. I wish it would jog on. Dave Grohl puts it best:

Dave Grohl quote

3. Effective not perfect

Does it communicate your idea effectively? Yes? Then it’s fine. You can stamp it ‘finished’. Perfection is the gold at the end of the rainbow. A total illusion. What’s perfect to you is rubbish to someone else. And what’s perfect to you now may be cringeworthy ramblings in a year’s time when you look back on it. It’s all subjective and a complete mirage, so just have the gumption to say it’s good to go as soon as you reach the point of effective communication.

4. To be less than perfect isn’t the same as rubbish.

Imperfection shouldn’t be feared. There’s truth in the saying that it’s our imperfections that make us unique, loveable, who we are. In terms of blogging, yes set yourself a high standard and strive every day to reach it. Don’t be sloppy, don’t let yourself go, don’t type out any old rubbish. But don’t stall yourself by aiming for beyond that high standard into unachievable perfection. There’s a middle ground. Find it and be there, happy and relaxed, not a bag of nerves unable to deliver a single thing. That’s worse than producing something of slight imperfection, and an imperfection that no one would mind or probably notice.

Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly. ~Robert H. Schuller

5. Just do it

Amelia Earheart said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” I could not agree more. Just type your post out, write your book, paint your picture, whatever it is that you create, and get something down. It can be utter gibberish or blobs on a canvas. It’s a start. A beautiful, imperfect start. And people are gonna love it!! A few tweaks here and there to get to an effective place of good standard, and away you go.

Apologies for all the language. But, sometimes you just have to.

What do you think? Has being perfectionist stopped you in your creative tracks? How did you get over it?