This is a post in a series inspired by Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. Read the Intro, Courage, Enchantment and Permission.
I once had a boss that valued common sense above almost any other trait.
She would categorize projects on a sliding scale between Rolls Royces and Honda Accords.
Rolls Royces were big and important projects. They’d be seen by a lot of people or the stakes were high. They took up a lot of our time and we’d work extra hours to make sure they were as close to perfect as they could be.
Honda Accords, on the other hand, were small projects that wouldn’t have any kind of big impact. Only a handful of people would even know they exist and the stakes were low. Our goal was to get them done, not to get them perfect. It wasn’t worth it for an Accord.
As a sidenote, my boss had nothing against Honda Accords. In fact, she drove an old, beat-up Accord at the time – which she used as the example for a project that really just needed to get done. She was also one of the most humble bosses I’ve ever worked for.
But anyway…she could not fathom spending lots of time and energy on projects that didn’t need that kind of investment. Some projects just needed to get done.
I think this concept translates to creative projects – there are some Rolls Royces that need to be perfect, but others don’t…most don’t. And I actually think it’s more freeing to, at least, consider almost all creative projects Accords.
When we put pressure on creative projects to be Rolls Royces, we’re either too afraid to start them or we’re too afraid to finish them.
When I’m too afraid to start
I have an idea, one that taps me on the shoulder and doesn’t stop. But it seems so big or important, I think there’s no way I can do it justice. Someone else could do it better. I’d probably mess it up. No one really reads or sees what I do, my platform isn’t big enough. So I ignore it, I never start a Rolls Royce project because I don’t think I’m good enough to handle that kind of project.
But if I consider the exact same project an Accord, I take the pressure off. I just need to start and do a decent enough job. All of a sudden, I’m not worried about impressing people or making it perfect. I just write for the sake of getting the idea out of my head. And sometimes, it ends up looking something like a Rolls Royce.
When I’m too afraid to finish
If I can figure out how to take the pressure off and write a Rolls Royce project, I’m afraid to finish it. I reread it over and over again and each time I find something to fix. I rewrite and rearrange, then reread it again.
Except I don’t admit that I’m doing this because I’m afraid to finish. Instead, I call myself a perfectionist. That’s a good term, right? We want it to be shiny and polished and, well, perfect.
A few years ago I was cleaning my room and stumbled upon this little card. I still have no recollection of where it came from or why it was hiding between my dresser and my bed. But isn’t it true?
When we refuse to let something we’re working on be released to the world until it’s “perfect” – are we actually concerned with getting it right? Or are we just refusing or afraid to let it go and move onto whatever’s next?
When we put pressure on creative projects to be Rolls Royces, they’re never going to be good enough to finish.
But Accords? It’s okay if they’re not perfect. They’re not supposed to be – they’re mid-range family vehicles. They just need to get you to your destination – nothing more.
Can we just agree to consider our creative projects Accords? Can we agree that they’ll never be perfect because that’s not possible, and actually they don’t really need to be?
Just start. Just create something and then finish it. Release it into the world. And then go create something else.
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