A note on creating something imperfect


Does what you create have to be perfect?

Perhaps. But it’s better to have created something imperfect than to not have created anything at all, right?

Of course imperfection comes with a price. Flaws can make you look like an amateur. Typos and grammatical errors turn even the most elegant writer into an ambitious sophomore. Any idea that begins to crumble under the lightest of critique can have it thrown out in a heartbeat.

From there, the damage of something imperfect scales infinitely. Imperfection can cost you a shot at that dream job or a place at the local art gallery. It can damage your career, ruin relationships, and make you look like a complete dolt.

It doesn’t matter whether the imperfection came as a result of simply overlooking something or whether you knew better or not. An imperfection means you messed up.

Critics like to spot the imperfections in anything. These days anyone can readily critique work, thanks in part to the Internet and the ability to consume more art, more writing, photographers, music, etc. than ever before. We’re all masterful critics now, able to effortless spot what makes a Monet great and a sixth-grade class project terrible. Or David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jestcompared to a blog post by a stay-at-home mom. Models in magazines and people at Walmart. We see imperfection everywhere because we have so many things to compare it with, so we feel empowered and justified when we spot imperfections and call them out.

Hours, days, months, or years can go into a work of art, and all it takes to make it evident that it’s from an amateur is the imperfections caused by a misplaced apostrophe, an accidental brush stroke, or a fraction of a delay in rhythm.

The cost of imperfection becomes a reason to not create. Worrying that what we end up with will be imperfect – even only slightly – is enough to ensure that we never pick up the brush, start typing the words, or move our feet.

Why work on something that might end up as crap anyway?

Billions of people around the world are asking themselves the exact same question: why put in the potentially countless hours of work to create something if it ends up being incomparable to the work of professionals or historic masters? Often the answer to this question is to not move. Those who ask it often end up not creating. In many instances, those same people don’t even like to think, they are content to be mindless critics. They exist to critique and contribute nothing to the world, because the cost of criticizing and judging is nothing.

Everyone can criticize.

What everyone can’t do is overcome the daunting fear of creating something imperfect. Of knowing that what they’re about to paint, write, play, invent, dance, or create may be terrible, but doing it anyway.

I say it’s better to create something imperfect than not create at all, because not everyone has what it takes to create. Creating anything means taking a risk to add something to the world, while critiquing adds nothing and costs nothing.

The critics will certainly come once that thing you create is out there in the world. If what they have to say about the imperfections can improve your work, that’s good, take the feedback and continue creating. If what they have to say is just gibberish or hateful, use it to remind you of what makes you valuable: you proactively create. This is important for us to remember:, because that’s all that critics can do: spot the imperfections. They can’t do what you’ve done when you press “publish” or hang your work in a gallery.

The cost of imperfection can be high, but the reward of creating anything at all is unfathomably higher. People who create stand out from the thoughtless masses. Creating opens new opportunities, gets you attention, helps you shape the world, and can inspire or motivate.

Create, even if it means making something imperfect.

Photo by Mark Patterson.