Something that’s been part of my recent education, my creative recovery, is the idea of “good enough.” This speaks deeply to the perfectionist in me. 30 years later, she is so very tired.
It’s like this website. I don’t know much about coding, but I’ve managed to slap together something that doesn’t look terrible. Part of me wants to keep going, to keep tweaking, until I feel my website is perfect. That’s the shiny-haired part of me, the part that doesn’t go to the store without makeup on, who doesn’t talk openly about the problems in her life because she has an image to uphold.
And then there’s the frizzy-haired side of me, the one who says dammit Lauren, my eyes are going crossed, and I want to watch Fuller House. Leave it. It’s good enough.
I never used to listen to that part of me. Probably because she looks like a hot mess and desperately needs to pluck her eyebrows.
“A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places.” ―Paul Gardner
But you know what? The older I get, the more I like that frizzy lady. She’s salty. She doesn’t take nonsense from others — because she knows she’s worth more. She knows that her value doesn’t come from being good at everything. That it’s not her job to be flawless. (That’s what they pay Gwenyth Paltrow for.) That when you put in work, the result is often not perfect, but it’s good enough.
It’s like that with writing. Whether it’s this post or the fifth chapter of my book — which I was just working on, and agonizing over. The problem with that is before you know it, you’re like this is bad, my work is bad, my book is going to be terrible…and then you never finish it.
Elizabeth Gilbert quotes her mother when she says “Done is better than good.” And oh, how my shiny-haired lady squirms at that statement. How could you possibly put something into the world that isn’t GOOD, let alone PERFECT? Aren’t we supposed to DO OUR BEST?
Yes, of course. We must do our best. But we must also not agonize over all the tiny details until our eyeballs fall out from under our eyebrows, however groomed or ungroomed they may be. Because you know what happens to work like that? It never gets done. It gets picked over, and criticized within an inch of its life, and by the time that process is over it doesn’t have the backbone or the grit to stand up to anything. So it goes into a shoebox or a deep dark computer folder and never sees the light of day.
I have far too much work that’s suffered that scrutiny.
Paul Gardner said “A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places.” Sooner or later, you have to realize that it’s fine, it’s good enough, and it’s time to move onto the next thing.
I had a long talk with my dad the other day about careers and life’s work. We agreed that you can work on the same thing until you die, saying “oh, I could do just a little bit more.” But by the end of that, you may be so burned out on the thing that you forget why you started, you forget the joy that the work originally brought you. You didn’t stop in that interesting place where you knew to stop.
The alternative to that is that you stop at that interesting place, and then you get to keep the joy that the work brought you AND start new work that will bring you a different kind of joy.
Do that instead.
Because either way, it’s done. Which means you get to do the next thing. Like watch Fuller House.