The benefits to finishing work which might not be your best

it can feel like a waste of time pushing through and completing a track which you know is unlikely to be your best work. But…


(Disclaimer: the opinions expressed herein are those of musician periodically battling perfectionism.  The views stated may be irrelevant to artists who do not experience this condition.)

In a recent post i mentioned I’ve been working on a new track.  That was a while ago now, so work on the said track has progressed from the early stages of putting together individual elements and layers, to finalizing by doing final mixing and adding incidental effects.  The incidental effects bit is something which to be honest i don’t enjoy that much… it’s really crucial in the sense that doing it wrong can result in a track which doesn’t have a professional sheen… but at the same time i don’t find it nearly as inventive or creative as experimenting with the more musical elements of a track.

During the process I’ve periodically had doubts about whether I actually like this track or not.  I seem to cycle through days when I think it’s quite good, and others where I find  myself thinking it’s not up to scratch.  During the early parts of the writing process it came very close to being binned altogether on several occasions.

Coming back to incidental parts… Often, if I’m really happy with how a track has turned out, I can easily get stuck spending way too long on trying to perfect the incidental parts… I guess subconsciously I know I’m pleased with the progress of the track, and don’t want to take it a step backwards by pairing it with less-than-perfect incidentals… which can lead to hours and sometimes days doing micro adjustments to incidental levels, EQ, automation etc…

I found with the current track though,  it was different.  Given I was already ambivalent about it, I found approaching creating incidentals was much easier… my mentality was more along the lines of ‘I just need to get this done to a reasonable level quickly’, rather than ‘this has to be really good so I don’t spoil the good work I’ve already done’.  As a result of the more relaxed approach, not only did the whole thing get done more quickly, but being less fixed and a bit more adventurous allowed me to discover a couple of new techniques along the way.

I guess the general point I’m trying to get to is this… It can feel like a waste of time pushing through and completing a track which you know is unlikely to be your best work.  But, doing so can provide some value… i.e. being able to approach something with a more relaxed, less perfectionistic attitude can…

  • Allow you to find faster ways to complete routine tasks
  • Let you experiment more and hence discover new techniques, benefit from ‘happy accidents’, etc…

…and, it always provides some satisfaction to at least complete a task and create something tangible, rather than spend hours working on an idea which ultimately gets thrown away.

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