Perfectionism is a funny word. You’d expect it to be black and white, hard and fast – it’s either perfect or it’s not, right? But the concept is so subjective it’s really become a gray area.
Okay, let’s take a step back here. First, before starting anything I think it’s important to identify what you’re trying to do and what’s important to you. If you’re making a song/album, is the public perception of you and your music important to you, or is your own personal perception of the song more important? Which brings me to the ultimate question – what will bring you the most happiness?
Seriously ask yourself that question. For me, it’s the enjoyment on other people’s faces when they hear the track for the first time. That uninhibited joy, the pure excitement. Face beaming kind of stuff! :)
Sure, I want to be happy with a track, but not to the point that it costs me the above goal. If, in my aim to make the perfect track (from my point of view) I am unable to complete and distribute 2 or 3 other good songs that people would enjoy, I have effectively lost.
The funny thing is, when those same people tell me what a great song it is, I believe it too. Not because I get brainwashed into thinking so, but because it’s simply the truth. If you are constantly looking at things from your perspective you are only getting a portion of the truth. As much as you thinkyou know better, it is actually your perspective that is the least objective and the least true.
Think about it. You are your own worst enemy. You constantly criticise your own work where others don’t. Now switch roles – think of a time when you had to give feedback on another friend’s song, art, design, cooking, or whatever. For this exercise, let’s think of a close friend, i.e. someone where you wouldn’t feel the need to “sugar-coat” things. Did you genuinely like the song, art, design or cooking? Did you speak the truth? If that person is a perfectionist more often than not they “considered” your opinion but did their own thing anyway – maybe they continued re-working the song or maybe they simply left it as is but looked upon this creation with less-than-satisfied eyes and failed to do anything with it. Sound like you sometimes? Me too.
This was a biig wake-up call for me and I am by no means free of this sin yet. I have spent many days/months/years either re-working something that was already good to start with and never releasing the song at all because it just wasn’t perfect in my eyes. Well guess what, I simply wasted all that time where I could’ve gained some exposure with the song that I had whilst having the time to continue to work on another couple good songs.
What’s more, if it’s a good product people will speak the truth. We all need affirmation. Affirmation breeds positivity, keeps us motivated and keeps us moving forward. (for my article on “How to stay motivated” click here).
On the contrary, I could work on a song until its “perfect” in my books, but I may have destroyed the very thing that actually made the song perfect to everyone else (Remember music is not all about the instruments and you can overwork it).
So in the best case, perfectionism will delay the finalisation and release of your artwork, delay your exposure and delay the enjoyment on receiving positive feedback. It will also drive you mad!
In the absolute worst case, you will end up over-working something that was already perfect, not get the affirmation you so eagerly thirst for and end up defeated and unmotivated.
Perfectionism is not efficient! Strive for excellence, not perfectionism. And if your friends tell you its good, its good. Cash that cheque and move on!
Sean David is a self-established music entrepreneur, singer/songwriter and journalist.