This article in the Wall Street Journal looks at the notion of artist as perfectionist. And more specifically, the “snare” of perfectionism.
I don’t think I’m a perfectionist. Actually, no thinking required. I am not a perfectionist. I strongly believe in delivering good product and I get so angry at half-assed attempts that get thrown out into the world. But I also believe in the done point. There’s almost always a done point for me with my work. This is by no means a “good enough” point. Oh, it’s good enough. Oh, who really cares anyway? I take my writing seriously, I work hard at it, but I am able to let it go.
Perfectionists, by in large, have a hard time with the done point. Nothing is ever good enough to be done. Which is a problem, especially if you’re trying to make a living with your art. If nothing is ever done, nothing ever gets sold.
There is a quote in the article that says every great artist strives for perfection. I wonder at that. What makes a great artist? Are all great artists perfectionists? If I’m not striving for perfecting, does that mean I’m not a great artist? If there’s no done point, if I’m never satisfied, does that equal greatness?
Maybe it does. I’ve never thought of myself as a “great” artist. I think of myself as a working artist. And in order to be a working artist that means the product has to be out in the world. There must be a done point. I strive to challenge myself. I strive to write in new ways. I strive to provide good product for my specific customers. I strive to improve. But I don’t believe I ever strive for perfection.
What defines a great artist to you?