My name is Mark, and I’m a perfectionist.
It’s not that striving for perfection isn’t a good thing, but that my perfectionism often gets in the way of actually getting something done. This really hit home recently in a few discussions I had with my friend, AAlgar. AAl and I are working on producing a new short film together, a “sequel” of sorts to one that we had previously done together.
When AAl originally approached me about doing the project, he mentioned that he mainly wanted to do it to get these characters down on film to just get them out of his head. He stressed that he didn’t want to spend a ton of time and effort on it, put just wanted it to get it done, so we could move on to other projects that we could spend more time on. This was to be, AAl noted, for our eyes only.
Being the perfectionist I am, though, all the caution about not spending too much effort went out the window. I thought up elaborate effects, spent an enormous amount of time working on making an insignia badge for the officers in the film, and planned to rent a professional camera to replace AAl’s VHS one. You see, it’s not that I really wanted to spend tons of time on this, but even if nobody else was going to see it, I wanted it to be something I could be proud of — something of quality.
I finally realized, though, that for this particular project, I should really just be helping AAl on his creative effort. If I wanted to ever get around to my own projects, or even something a little more creatively balanced between us, I needed to heed AAl’s advice.
That advice applies to the rest of my life as well. I have a lot of grandiose ideas about how I’m going to make my life better — one of them being to scan into my Mac all the images and newspaper clippings I’ve amassed over the years, so that I have only a few CD-ROMs to move around with me, instead of almost a hundred pounds of paper. It’s a great idea, but it takes time, and I’m not happy to just have the stuff scanned in — no, I have to have it look exactly the same as it did on paper. That means scanning in the images and text, arranging it in a page layout program, and then exporting it to Adobe’s PDF format to keep the formatting. At that rate, I’ll be accumulating more clippings at a rate faster than I’ll be getting them digitized — and I already have a backlog!
I’m taking AAl’s advice to heart — I’m giving up.
So long as I have the text and images scanned in so I can find what I need later, what difference does it make whether it looks like the original? And if AAl doesn’t want the look of a multi-million dollar budget in his film, who am I to force it on him? If my clients at work don’t care how precisely kerned and arranged their video titles are, why should I spend extra time getting them to my satisfaction?
There’s a fine line, I’m finding, between taking pride in your work and spending needless hours on minor details that no one but you cares about or notices. On my film projects, I’m sure I’ll always be a perfectionist, but I’m finally learning to pick my battles.