“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” Michael J. Fox
Humans seek perfection in all things. We seek it in the products we buy and the services we use. We expect others to behave in a manner that meets a set of clearly defined ideals (whether we recognise this or not). Interestingly, everyone has a different set of values and behaviours that we deem perfectly acceptable. When we judge someone’s behaviour as being bad or wrong, we are doing this with a mindset of perfectionism. (Think about this for a minute!)
Surprisingly, we are seldom able to provide that same level of perfection we seek in others.
At first you may think this is a little extreme but it isn’t, let me explain…
When we buy something, we want it new and shiny and we expect the item to perform perfectly. Fair enough if you’re buying a car or a new fridge. However, we also expect this with lesser-valued items and we even expect the box and packaging to be without blemish, even though we will throw the box away as soon as we get home.
We expect our lawnmower/gardener person to trim our lawns with deft precision, leaving neither weed nor blade of grass behind.
And imagine if your accountant made an error! Soon enough the taxman would let you know that he performed less than perfectly.
We expect our teenagers to make perfect choices (choices we approve of), we want our celebrities, and rock stars to always appear perfect and behave like model citizens. They are, after all, society’s role models. The truth is we actually have higher moral expectations for others then we do for ourselves.
When it comes to creative and artistic endeavours like writing books – we demand perfection. Once you have read a few book reviews you will discover just how many readers expect perfection. (Sometimes even beyond what is normally expected or humanly possible.)
It is not unusual to read a book and discover a mistake or two, or sometimes, many. Mistakes appear in both traditionally published books and independently published books. But does a missing comma, a misplaced full stop or a misused adjective really affect the enjoyment of a good story. Usually not.
Remember that a novel writer has around 100,000 opportunities to make a mistake.
I like a book where you can feel the author’s passion for the story and their characters. Sometimes stories are well written and sometimes not, but if the passion is present then a few mistakes are forgivable. (Lazy writing, unedited manuscripts, endings rushed to meet deadlines or books uploaded to Amazon for profit alone, are a different story.)
Often there are bigger mistakes, like the use of shudder and shutter (these words are not interchangeable… they have different meanings! Look it up.) Or continuity errors, where car models change or eye colour varies throughout the story. And while errors like the misuse of shutter/shudder make me want to scream, they (usually) don’t make the story less enjoyable.
I am not perfect, and I know that I often make mistakes, in writing and in life and I am quite happy to accept a blemish or two, a dented package or a missing comma.
Perhaps it’s time to be less harsh in our judgement of others (not just writers); perhaps we should seek perfection only when we can offer it ourselves. (This is highly unlikely so don’t even try).
I know this doesn’t apply to all of us and it isn’t something we do all of the time, but it does apply to most of us, a lot of the time. I do realise that we don’t want to buy inferior products or to be surrounded by crappy broken things but there are many times when ‘stuff’ just doesn’t matter!
So next time you think J Lo’s butt is a few inches bigger or smaller then you’ve come expect or the book you’ve just read has too many missing commas… stop and say, “Does it really matter?” Then get over yourself and your sense of perfection and have a great day!
I thought I would search Google to find suitable images for this article. I thought I would have trouble, but guess what? I didn’t. There are hundreds of articles and images on the subject of perfection. Here are some you may find interesting…http://imperfectaction.com/blog/2009/06/01/personal-development/stop-chasing-for-perfection/ http://www.ghostwoods.com/2012/08/perfection-1500/ http://creativewithkids.com/myth-of-the-perfect-parent/ http://ryanwiancko.com/2011/02/16/embrace-the-darkness-embrace-the-perfection-embrace-the-happiness-of-the-moment/