Over the course of a few years, I’ve watched a colleague make wildly successful stuff from a distance.
She’s reworked and reworked the same material until it shines. EVERYTHING is more beautiful than ever.
The website is glamorous and cutting-edge. The downloads are speedy, the content is precise, the user experience from start to finish is clean and has been absolutely perfected.
But it just doesn’t feel like it used to. It feels a little cold, a little sterile. A little too shiny.
A little too ‘YAY ISN’T LIFE SO GREAT NOTHING BAD EVER HAPPENS TO ME EVER, SORRY FOR YOU MOTHERFUCKERS WHO AREN’T LIVING A PERFECT LIFE. I’VE NEVER HAD AN EVEN MODERATELY BAD HAIR DAY, AND ALL RED LIGHTS NATURALLY TURN GREEN IN MY PRESENCE, SUCKAH.’
I was clicking around, wondering how making something better and better could actually HURT an endeavor, when it struck me:
You can polish the life right out of a thing.
When you’re striving for perfection, you can erode the fundamental spirit of a thing.
You lose an edge here, a corner there. You keep chipping away, and suddenly the life is gone.
Sometimes the spirit is in the flaws.
Sometimes the charm is in letting us see your humanity.
Sometimes the most sacred bits are the parts your detractors might call mistakes.
Sometimes the best parts of a program are found in the outtakes.
When you find yourself in the ‘make it perfect, make it perfect, make it perfect’ loop…ask yourself whether what you’re making hums with life.
Ask a friend who loves you where it sings and where it falls flat. Ask if the whole thing reflects who you are and where you are in the world, or if you’ve accidentally picked up someone’s else’s voice. (Or worse, someone else’s aspirations.) Ask them if it feels like you.
Does it feel like kids covered in mud, or dogs digging in the sand, or those moments when you first picked up the instruments of your profession and thought ‘This is what I want to do with my life…’? If it does, no further polishing is required.
Let us see the work. Let your slightly-wibbly bits sing out to ours and make new off-key-but-lovely music together.
We’d rather have a spirited something than a lifeless lump of perfection.