Recently I was cleaning up my garage when I decided to open an old toy box that my dad built for me when I was seven years old. I’ve kept quite a bit of stuff from when I was a kid through my teenage years. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s because my dad was also an avid collector and I subconsciously learned from him or maybe I just have the weird personality of those people on the TV shows American Pickers or Hoarders. Whatever the reason, I have it, and to be honest I think most of it’s pretty darn cool!
The thing that really caught my eye tonight wasn’t the Star Wars collectibles, the 1978 KISS trading cards, or even my Marvel comic book collection — it was a leather portfolio given to me in 1989 for showcasing my artwork. I completely forgot that I still had that extremely large, cumbersome portfolio and the treasures inside revealed a very telling past.
My project work was from the early 90s. It was a time where desktop publishing was still relatively new and where we still used blue-lines, film, and Letraset to set up camera ready artwork. I would draw design comps by hand with mechanical pencils on a drafting board. If you messed up, you started over. There was no “Undo” button.
What I noticed with the creative work being held prisoner in that leather binder for twenty years now was that it wasn’t that great. Heck, it wasn’t even really good. I was somewhat embarrassed by it, especially since some of it was for clients such as Glock, L.A. Kings, Colorado Rockies, BMW, and Eskimo Joes. The positive side is that I have definitely improved.
It has been said that practice makes perfect. I don’t believe that at all.
Perfection is not something that can be achieved, because the perfectionist in any creative individual will never let that happen. There will ALWAYS be something that can be improved or tweaked. Perfection is an ideal that simply cannot be reached. It just can’t. When creatives finally understand this reality, it actually frees us to focus on completing work that we can be happy with. Sometimes “good enough” IS good enough! This also does’t mean you should dismiss the value of practicing your craft either, because practice will make you better. No one ever reaches a destination without taking the trip.
Getting better at your skills or talents requires practice.
My seventeen year old son has often made remarks about his own artwork being subpar compared to mine. He is very talented at drawing, but what I’ve tried to explain to him is that he is exactly where I was when I started. He forgets that I have 35 years of experience behind me and many failures. It takes a lot of time to develop a skill and to produce something that is good. If you look at Tyler’s artwork from the age of eight to the present time, you will see that he has improved at least one hundred percent. It has only come through practice. He is a better artist now than he was nine years ago.
Comparing yourself to others is not always beneficial.
How often do we compare our own skills or situations to others? While there is some benefit in observing what other people may have done or are currently doing, it can rob us of the ability to move forward in improving our own talents. There are times when I look at the amazing artists on Dribbble or Airbrush Action and then I think, why even bother? There are so many better people that I shouldn’t even try. But this mindset isn’t healthy because we all have something of value to offer and we are all talented in our own ways. Instead of withdrawing or giving up, we need to press ourselves to practice and to get better. We need to show the world what we’ve got. We need to ship.
Don’t be perfect. Be good enough. Ship your work today.
Whatever it is that you are creatively pursuing today, stop focusing on trying to reach perfection and start working for good enough. Then ship or launch or release whatever it is into the wild. Maybe what you see as good will be great to others. I have found that sometimes what I feel is a failure is actually a huge success with my clients or community. And when others smile about my work I can move on and be happy. Besides, there is always a new canvas to practice on to get better!