One of the most enduring stereotypes about the creative person is that we're perfectionists.
Screenwriters do endless drafts, poets agonise over finding exactly the right word, and Art Directors re-touch the shit out of their ads until they're perfect.
Nearly every creative guru advises us to be obsessive; all the greats are described as perfectionists - David Abbott, John Hegarty, Paul Arden, everyone.
Paul Arden's obituary in
recounts that he "was such a perfectionist that he was often maddeningly over budget, insisting that the smallest details be perfect, such as searching for a certain pair of wildly expensive spectacles to achieve just the right look on a face that would be seen only in passing in a TV spot."
But on the other hand, a completely
notion is becoming commonplace nowadays - "fail faster." It's come largely from the world of tech and digital, and the thinking is that it's better to put something out there that's
perfect, and then learn from it.
Instead of spending days crafting the perfect headline for a digital display piece, you can run the same ad with five different headlines, learn which one is most effective, and then go with that one.
There's also an awareness that perfectionism may not be efficient.
Getting a piece of work from 95% perfect to 100% perfect probably takes as much time as getting it from 50% to 95% does. By that argument, perfectionism doesn't make you good, it just makes you slow.
And rather than a desire for high standards, perfectionism may simply be a symptom of neuroticism.
(The top answer when I typed 'perfectionism' into Google was for a psychotherapy resource called
, a place where you can "learn to pursue healthy high standards rather than unrelenting high standards that negatively impact your life.")
I've always been the person that spends hours making sure I dot every i and cross every t. But perhaps with today's super-tight deadlines it's more important to be fast than perfect. What do you think?