I’ve never thought that I was the biggest perfectionist, but college and writing keep proving me wrong. Perhaps it’s because it’s where my performance and my expectations meet, on a forked intersection where the streetlight doesn’t function properly and the roads aren’t paved correctly. As you can very well imagine, with a mindset like this, when starting a first draft or even reading a college syllabus out loud, every mistake becomes a speeding car ready to flip over on a huge crack in the road. The more I lose faith in my first draft performance, the farther my motivation drops until suddenly, I can’t even summon myself to open a document.
It’s not like performance isn’t important. For example, take buying a dessert cookbook. Unless you’re a heath nut, you would probably want the cookbook to have quality recipes, helpful tips and the promise of succulent tasting food. We want products we buy to look good, work well and last a long time. Wishing for good performance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The problem arises when perfectionism strikes the premature project, like my first draft. It’s too easy to get a low self-esteem because of self-criticizing and overloads of expectation sloshing in buckets down the performance grates. It’s easy to begin thinking that any talent you thought you had was some dream. That perhaps, after all this work, the end is collecting the glass pieces of your goals off the carpet, or watch the dream fester like an open wound.
That was how I was feeling before I read this article, ‘Be Wrong As Fast As You Can’ by Hugo Lindgren.
“I recently saw a Charlie Rose interview with John Lasseter, a founder of Pixar, about the creative process behind his movies. Pixar’s in-house theory is: Be wrong as fast as you can. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the creative process, so get right down to it and start making them. Even great ideas are wrecked on the road to fruition and then have to be painstakingly reconstructed. ‘Every Pixar film was the worst motion picture ever made at one time or another,’ Lasseter said, ‘People don’t believe that, but it’s true. But we don’t give up on the films.'”
When I read this little paragraph, I couldn’t help but slam my breaks and stare at it for a second. One of THE Pixar movies… the worst movie of all time at one point? You’ve got to be kidding me, all of Pixar’s movies are beyond incredible, and you’re telling me they used to be a scrap heap? It couldn’t possibly be true.
Then it dawned on me. This is exactly what I needed to hear, as it’s the same problem I have with my novel. I’m only on the first draft. The first novel I’ve ever gotten more than halfway through on. Of COURSE it’s going to suck right now. Maybe it’ll never improve to the point of publishing, OR maybe it will. But if Pixar never gives up on a film, why should I give up on a novel? What did it ever do but help me develop my craft, and bloom into something I never expected to happen? It’s already been a hell of a ride. I’m not ready to give up yet.
I encourage anyone out there stuck in their creative process to do so as well. Allow yourself to be wrong. If you’re in a hurry, well, then be WRONG as FAST as you CAN. Once you’ve got past a few horrible steps, you might find you’re onto something. If not, at least you gave it your best shot.
Like the wise said, you can never hit a shot you didn’t take.
See you Friday for the villains segment of the Character Creation series!