I don’t have ultra-high standards for most things. ‘Good enough’ is my usual, and I usually arrive at that through a complex calculus of examining my time, materials, tools, and the mental and emotional ‘spoons’ I can devote to the project. I’ve also recently internalized the concept that if you don’t tell your audience you made a mistake, most of them will never notice.
On the other hand, I notice when I’ve made a mistake or fallen short.
This applies to writing as well as other aspects of life. Last month, I needed a set of shelves, so I could bring my potted plants inside for the winter and park them under the only south-facing window I have access to. Fine, but in my family, one doesn’t buy shelves. No. That kind of project is simple enough that any self-respecting adult builds rather than buying. But I didn’t have the mental energy for a project of even that magnitude. So I went back and forth for a while between buying what I needed and feeling like a failure, and all the agonies of building what I needed, accompanied by the knowledge that, no matter what I did, the end result wouldn’t look like what I had in my head. In the end, I bought an inexpensive writing desk of the right size, sanded and painted it to make it look closer to the image in my head, and called it good. Halfway to success is better than standing back at the starting line, I guess. And the plants don’t care; they’re happy in their new home.
As I said, I’m not usually a perfectionist. But there is a line between ‘acceptable’ and ‘not’, and I hate lowering my standards for success just because having high standards is difficult. If I have an unreachable goal and I can’t reach it, well, that’s only to be expected, though constant, unending failure is disheartening. But if I have a reachable goal, and I can’t quite reach it (and I rarely do, because nothing is perfect) then I get really irritated- ‘this should be easy; why can’t I do it right?’
On the writing front, I have the current WIP- the time travel story I’ve previously mentioned. It’s an insanely complex story, and any version of it that ends up on paper is going to be a pale reflection of what’s in my head. The reader won’t know that unless I tell them, and I’m not too worried that you guys will spill the beans since I plan to publish this under a pen name (if it ever gets to the publication stage). But I’ll know that the story bears little resemblance to what I wanted, and since I actually like this story a lot and would read the hell out of it, that gap between expectation and reality looks like a vast and depressing gulf to me. Almost like the story is a person and I’m letting it down because I don’t have the skill to do it justice.
Then I fall into a spiral of ‘even if it meets my standards, the reader won’t understand or appreciate what I’m trying to convey’ because it includes some subtle emotional concepts and complicated motivations, which leads to further spiraling of the ‘what’s the use of writing it to publication standards anyway, when the whole point of publishing is to communicate a story to the reader?’ type, and so on. Very irksome.
I wish I had a solution. I don’t. So I’m going to keep picking away at the story, and see where it leads me. The nuthouse, possibly.
Anyone else have this problem?