03.09.19 / What is perfection

What is perfection, and does it exist in terms of everyday writing.

I say ‘everyday writing’ because I don’t want to get into writers like Svetlana Alexievich, James Joyce, Herta Müller, and William Gibson (among many others) whose work, or some of it at least, could be described as perfect — if not technically perfect, then emotionally perfect. So, we’re going to stick with non-fiction writings for the sake of argument here.

Perfection in your work: is there such a thing? Of course there is. There is a concept of perfection. There is a philosophical idea of perfection. There is a perception or personal feelings toward perfection. But is there a measurable, literal perfection? And should we strive toward it?

Does the idea of the pursuit of perfection cripple you and stop you from moving forward with whatever project you’re working on?

If we let go of the chase for perfection, we free ourselves to create and to make mistakes. Trust your judgment and follow the white rabbit, like Neo.

Then there’s the idea of process. You’ll all probably have a process by which you create your visual communication work, which you’ll likely employ daily. Ask yourself a question: do I start a project wanting to immediately create the perfect, polished end product? Probably not. Hopefully not.

So, does it then make sense that when writing you follow a similarly structured process? You’ll have noticed by now that this article is composed mostly of questions so far. This is because I want you to think about what your work means to you. How you go about creating it, and how you can transfer the processes you employ in your visual work to your written work. You might be surprised at how similar the two are.

If I were to teach a class of designers about how to write, I’d begin with stating what might not be obvious to you all: that all of you can already write — you just don’t trust yourself or your ability… yet. If you can put a process in place in which you’re free to ideate and make mistakes, create sentences that are far from perfect but still give a clear idea of what you want to say, then that’s step one. From step one we can go back and cull all the words that don’t help drive your narrative or argument.

One of my most valued mentors, a former AGDA head honcho, said to me on more than one occasion ‘I can write short snappy lines, but I just can’t write longer pieces. I get stuck on trying to make the first sentence (and the proceeding sentences) perfect.” There’s the concept of perfection raising its head again. So, I’d suggest writing what amounts to a stream of consciousness and then go back and edit the content — not just once, mind, but many times. If you need an article of 500 words, then it will likely help to write around 1000-2000 words of content and work backwards, culling unnecessary sections as you go, until you get to a point where you have all the information needed to construct your argument and nothing extraneous. From there, you can polish the text, make sure your syntax is spot on, grammar is nailed, and tone of voice is suitable and consistent for your audience. The more you go through this process, the easier it will get, and the better you’ll get at it.

Just. Trust. Yourself. And trust your process.

— QS

Back to Articles

Posted By
Heath Campbell

View member profile