As a songwriter, musician, producer and blogger, I’ve slowly come to appreciate a powerful mantra: “Done is better than perfect.”
This simple yet very profound phrase has become a guiding principle in my creative journey over time. It reminds me that striving for perfection through music will often lead to a cycle of endless revisions and, ironically, stifling the very creativity it seeks to perfect.
For me, “done is better than perfect” can be best integrated into the 4 main activities of a music artist…
- Writing music
- Recording music
- Performing music
- Promoting music
Below are some observations that I have made in my attempts to better integrate the “done is better than perfect” philosophy into my music career and as an extension to this, my life in general.
One of the things I learned pretty quickly in all my years writing songs is that the first casualty of perfectionism is often creativity itself.
Writing music, at its core, is an expression of emotion and the desire to communicate but when we focus too hard on making every line, every chord perfect, we risk losing the soul of the song.
The Pitfalls of Perfectionism
There would be many times when I’d sit for hours, agonizing over a single lyric or a melody line, trying to make it ‘perfect.’ More often than not, this pursuit led to frustration and creative blocks.
The truth is, perfectionism can be paralyzing. It’s a trap that makes you second-guess every creative impulse, leading to a cycle of endless revisions. The raw, initial emotion that sparked the song often gets lost in this process.
Creativity Through Completion
Embracing the concept of ‘done is better than perfect’ was an absolute game-changer for me. It meant allowing myself to write freely, without the burden of judgment or the fear of imperfection.
This approach doesn’t mean settling for mediocrity; rather, it’s about recognizing the point at which the song serves its purpose – to convey emotion, tell a story, or capture a moment.
Finishing a song, even if it’s not flawless, has been incredibly liberating. It has allowed me to create a more diverse array of music, experimenting with different styles and themes.
More importantly, it has helped me grow as an artist. Each completed song is a step forward, a learning experience that builds my skills and confidence.
At the end of the day I’ve found that embracing imperfection can lead to a more prolific creative process. It’s all about capturing the essence of the emotion or story you’re telling, and sometimes, that essence is most powerfully conveyed in its most natural, unpolished form.
For me, the environment where the “done is better than perfect” philosophy makes the most sense and works the best is in the recording studio.
My experiences in the recording studio have taught me invaluable lessons about the balance between artistic integrity and the practical realities of finishing songs and this is where the philosophy comes into play.
Balancing Efficiency and Perfection
I’ve always found the process of recording music a fascinating one. There’s a magic in capturing a song, a moment in time, yet it’s easy to get lost in the pursuit of the ‘perfect take.’
In the early days of recording my music (before I learnt how to do it myself), I’d spend a long time in the studio, trying to get every note, every inflection just right. I eventually realized that this pursuit was not only exhausting but also financially draining because as they say… Time is money.
The turning point came when I started focusing on efficiency over perfection. This didn’t mean compromising the quality of the recordings; rather, it meant recognizing the point where the essence of the song was captured authentically.
Sometimes, the imperfections – a slight rasp in the voice, a minor variation in rhythm – added a unique character to the track that ‘perfection’ would have polished away forever.
The Charm of Authenticity
There’s an undeniable charm in recordings that aren’t overly sanitized. They carry an authenticity, an emotional rawness that can be really moving. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty in the ‘flaws’ – they make a recording feel real, relatable.
I call them “happy accidents.”
My favorite takes are the ones where the emotions were palpable, where the urgency or tenderness of the performance was front and center. These moments might not have been technically perfect, but they captured the heart of the song.
I’m sure that these takes will resonate with listeners in a way that a ‘perfect’ but soulless take never could. This approach has not only made the recording process more enjoyable but has also helped me create music that truly connects with people.
Even though I have a love/hate relationship with live performance at times, stepping onto the stage has for most of the time been a thrilling yet daunting experience for me.
Over time, I’ve come to understand that perfection in live performance is not just elusive; it’s also not necessarily the most important goal.
Reducing Performance Anxiety
When I started my musical journey, the fear of making mistakes was overwhelming. I believed that a perfect performance was the only way to prove my worth as an artist (you know the drill… If I’m a good musician then I will be more liked as a person). This mindset, however, only served to heighten my anxiety and, ironically, made mistakes more likely.
I learnt fairly early on that embracing the idea that ‘done is better than perfect’ would transform my approach to performing.
It allowed me to step on stage with a mindset focused on sharing the music, not on avoiding errors. This shift was liberating.
I’d like to think that by embracing the philosophy my performances became more about connecting with the audience, conveying the emotions of the songs, and enjoying the moment of the performance itself.
Over time the pressure to be flawless subsided, and in its place, a love for the live performance emerged.
The Growth in Regular Performance
Another revelation came with the understanding that regular performance, regardless of perfection, is a path to growth. Each time I performed, I learned something new – about the music I was performing, my audience, and myself.
I began to see imperfections not as failures, but as opportunities to improve and evolve.
This philosophy also opened me up to more opportunities. Instead of waiting for the ‘perfect’ gig or the ‘right’ moment, I had started saying yes to a variety of performance opportunities. This not only honed my skills and built my confidence but also broadened my audience reach.
But be careful, don’t do what I did and burn yourself out. You need to temper the enthusiasm with periodical reality checks.
In a live performance setting what truly matters is the connection with the audience, the expression of emotion, and the joy of sharing the art.
Embracing imperfection in this context doesn’t mean settling for mediocrity; it means celebrating the human, relatable aspects of live performance.
The world of the new music industry and especially the ever changing environment of (online) music promotion has been an eye-opener for me. In this digital age, where content is rapidly consumed and trends change in the blink of an eye, I’ve learned that the principle of ‘done is better than perfect’ is especially relevant.
The Importance of Timely Releases
I’ve only released one CD “Seeing Stars” way back in 2012 so the irony of talking about timely releases is not lost on me however, from what I’ve learnt through my research is that writing, recording and releasing often is the way to go.
I used to think that if only I had “this opportunity and/or that piece of gear” then everything would work out fine. If only I had all of my ducks in a row then I could move forward with my music career
However, this quest for perfection often led to delays, causing me to miss out on the very opportunities that would move my career forward..
I had realized that the music industry moves at a lightning-fast pace. Waiting for everything to be perfect can mean missing the window of relevance, especially in a world where audiences are constantly looking for new content.
Learning to balance quality with timeliness was crucial. I began to refocus on ensuring that my music and promotional materials were good and resonated with my brand, rather than perfect.
This is still going and is by no means finished but this shift helped me to release music and promotional content more regularly, keeping me relevant and engaged with my community.
Building a Discography and Maintaining Relevance
Another important aspect I learned is the value of building a body of work, a discography. In the past, I might have held back on releasing music, waiting for it to be ‘perfect.’ But I came to understand that each and every time I shared new music, it contributes to the bigger picture of my artistic journey.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to my involvement with the FAWM and 5090 Online Songwriting Challenges.
Through participating in these challenges which involves releasing music demos consistently through a platform like SoundCloud, even if it’s not flawless, has helped me build a more substantial body of work that I can look back on and be proud of.
This has not only aided in keeping my creativity engaged but has also attracted new listeners who find something in the variety of my music.
Now I’ve got to turn my demos into fully releasable songs and the “done is better than perfect” philosophy will help me greatly in achieving this aim because in a rapidly evolving industry, being able to release music and promotional content efficiently and consistently is crucial.
So what does the phrase “done is better than perfect” mean to you? Please let me know, I’d love to hear from you.
Share your experiences where you’ve found ‘done’ to be more fulfilling than ‘perfect.’ Whether it’s a song you wrote, a performance you gave, or a project you completed, let’s celebrate the beauty of imperfection in music.
Together, let’s redefine what success in music looks like, not by the absence of flaws, but by the presence of genuine expression and the courage to share our art with the world.