“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” — Aristotle
There’s a myth about Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel.
One day, someone was watching the Italian artist spend an insane amount of time laboring over a small, hidden corner of the chapel’s ceiling.
Surprised by Michelangelo’s persistence to make that obscure corner as perfect as possible, they asked the artist who would ever know whether it was perfect or not.
Michelangelo replied, “I will.”
Even though the great Renaissance artist considered himself to be a sculptor, and wasn’t a big fan of painting, he did however have a deep love for the act of creation, regardless of the medium.
Another popular myth about Michelangelo is the fact that, even at the age of 82, a master of the arts, he was proud to admit that he was still learning.
The process was his reward. The creative journey interested him, far more than reaching the destination.
In our pursuit of success, we often focus mostly on the end result. Ironically, by doing that, we either neglect the journey because we want to get there as fast as possible or we simply obsess on making the end result as perfect as possible.
Either way, we forget to enjoy the journey, and in effect, we lose our desire to even reach the destination.
Perfectionism: A Manifestation of Fear
Perfectionism is the fear that you can only reach your goal if you create something that’s perfect.
However, the obvious side-effect is that perfection doesn’t exist.
Creative work is notoriously subjective, and as our own taste develops, how we rate our work changes.
The truth? Our work doesn’t have to be perfect. Our work just has to be.
The creatives who create works of art of high-quality do so because they are enjoying the process so much, it’s easy for them to spend a lot of time tinkering with their work.
They do not spend that time out of fear, but rather out of pure love of the work they’re doing.
If you enjoy the journey, you don’t want it to end, thus you spend far more time working on your art.
Fall in Love with The Process of Progress
It took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and he wasn’t even that passionate about painting.
What he did love, more than anything, more than finishing his work, was enjoying the process of progress.
It is not reaching our destination that most fulfills us, it’s the progress we make each day on our way towards our destination.
Little by little, a little becomes a lot.
There’s an old Buddhist saying, “you’re already perfect, but you can always be better.”
Most of us quit because we want to create perfect work because we mistakenly believe that’s the end goal.
The result is a byproduct of falling in love with the process, with the small daily improvements we make to our process and habits.
On a day to day basis, our creative work is likely to feel mundane, a rather boring set of tasks, but it is our capacity to rephrase work as play that allows us to fall in love with the process.
How to Make the Most of the Unsexy Work of Creation
The age-old cliche that a journey of a thousand miles begins with taking the first step has become such a tired truism precisely because it’s one of the best strategies you can deploy if you want to reach your destination.
The goal isn’t to take perfect steps or to leap towards your destination, but rather to enjoy each and every step you take.
This is no big secret.
The daily deliberate practice of doing work that makes us smile ensures that we will create a product that’s as close to perfection as possible.
It is not fear of not reaching our destination that most motivates us, aka desperation, but rather enjoying the journey towards our destination, which is also commonly known as inspiration.
When you enjoy what you do, when every stroke of the brush reveals more of your soul, and both fascinates and teaches you, that’s when you feel inspired to do your best to create work that matters.
It is not a desire to create perfect work that ensures our work is perfect, but rather our desire to enjoy each and every single step along the way.
In order to create high-quality creative work, we must enjoy even the most boring, redundant, and mundane daily tasks that our work demands of us.
If we rush to complete the work, to reach our destination, we will find out that it was not worth it. Our work will be flawed, the feedback we receive will be negative.
If, on the other hand, we fear reaching the destination with anything less than perfect work, odds are we will never reach the destination, while the ensuring journey is marked with countless moments of doubt, anxiety, and frustration.
The writer who enjoys “every single word” they write into existence is the writer who “puts perfection in the work.”
Creative work is not just the act of expressing oneself, but also the act of impressing oneself.
In order to create work that impresses us, we must strive for progress, not perfection, while enjoying the often back-breaking, boring job of constant improvement.