Frustrated Perfectionist

For many years I’ve thought of myself as a perfectionist. A frustrated one.

But how can a person be a perfectionist without being frustrated? “Frustrated” almost seems to be redundant when used with “perfectionist.”

I’m reminded of that that every time I write a new song, make a new home recording, or write a new novel. God has given me the necessary talents to do those three things, and He’s helped me to grow in my ability to use those skills effectively.

Each of those activities requires constant practice, and I must not only accept the fact that improvement comes slowly, but that I will never be as good at any of those things as I would like to be.

What would it feel like to be the BEST–at anything? If I could just complete one project that didn’t leave me saying, “That’s the best I can do for now. I could keep working at it, but the additional changes and improvements would be minimal. Not worth the effort. Why should I settle for less than perfect, though? Don’t I don’t know how to do it better? How does it honor God to call it complete now?”

Whenever I read one of my old novels–published or unpublished–the imperfections that didn’t matter then wave a red flag in my face. As if saying, “How did you dare to think you were done with that?” When I listen to my home recordings of original songs, I almost invariably regret not having tried one last time to improve one part, usually the vocal.

Interestingly (to me, anyhow), I sometimes make minor changes to one of my songs years after I wrote it. Maybe I realize I changed the chord I used at a particular place. Other times I lower a note here or there because I can no longer hit the original note(s) (assuming I ever could).

And–this is a relatively new development–I’ve actually gone back and added refrains or bridges to several of my older songs.

Why did I do those things? Was it because my desire to be perfect–or to come closer to being perfect–took over?

I hope not. I hope it’s because my skills in a particular area have grown and I see those as places to apply them.

Will I ever outgrow being a frustrated perfectionist? Will I ever be fully satisfied with a project I call completed because I simply can’t do any better, no matter how much I want to?

I doubt it. But as long as God keeps helping me to sharpen my talents,  I can look forward to each new project and thank Him that it was better than the previous one. Maybe not in every way, but still somehow better.

What about you? Do you find it easy to let go of something you’ve done–maybe even a task at work–and put it behind you? Or do you keep looking for ways to improve it when quite possibly you don’t have the skills or the know-how to do better? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


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Best regards,

6 thoughts on “Frustrated Perfectionist

  1. Such a fine post! I absolutely get what you are saying.

    As for me, art and perfection are galaxies away from each other. Art is an objective pursuit, Art defies being classified as perfect or imperfect. Art: music, literature, painting, sculpting and other expressions of our soul are not easily fitted into a box to be given an exact score or number. Children’s art is an example. As crude as it may seem to adults, it is certainly beautiful and satisfying to the children who did it and the parents of those kids.

    I find it hard to revisit a work after I have finished it. The moment something comes to me, with all its grammatical errors, obscurities and conundrums of thought, I rush to push it out. I work with it and wiggle the words around, the thoughts, and when it seems finished – that is it. I go back to stuff I’ve written years ago and try to twiddle with it and it is basically a complete rewrite, a completely different work. Best left alone.

    I don’t get down on myself if the thing I wrote doesn’t seem to measure up to my opinion of good. There are great moments and others not so outstanding. Some of the things I have felt most strongly about others have sniffed at. I think this is because beauty is in the eye of the decider. This is why art is objective. I really do not think the Mona Lisa is the greatest painting of all time. Lots of other people more educated than I think it is.

    In the past, I was very jealous of my work and guarded my writings from most eyes for fear of being misunderstood. It hurt to hear someone say in a blasé tone that a poem I felt strongly about was ”ok”. If I had to explain it then it felt even worse.

    Art is such a personal endeavor. There are folks who have the right touch and make a gazillion dollars from their work. Others struggle mightily and get nowhere. It’s a tough nut. Best do art for the pleasure of creating rather than try to make a living at it.


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