Done or Perfect?

I rode my bike around my neighborhood today--a perfect Sunday afternoon.  (A neighbor gave me this vintage bike when she was cleaning out her garage.)  

The other day I saw the words, "Better Done than Good," posted on Facebook by writer Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame).  Gilbert also added a brief excerpt from an interview where she discusses how this maxim has helped her in a profession where she puts herself in the vulnerable position of sharing her creative work with the public and is, therefore, always open to criticism. Gilbert's post got me thinking.  I did some searching online and found lots of references to "Better done than perfect" (rather than better done than good), but however one says this phrase, the meaning is the same.  

In many ways I fancy myself a perfectionist, but I am also hyper-sensitive to deadlines. When I used to be a yearbook adviser, I was a tyrant about page submission dates and exacting about content--spending hours and hours at home, just tweaking a photo or checking and rechecking and rechecking for errors, inconsistencies, or omissions in text. This practice was certainly damaging to my personal life but beneficial to a quality finished product.  When working on a team at school, though, I am aware that my peers often view tasks as things to "done," so that accomplishments can be checked off on a list to submit to higher-ups, so I have the nagging suspicion (more like confirmed conclusion) that I am a source of annoyance when suggesting ways to make things better. So I'm stuck.  Which is preferable?  Getting things done?  Or getting things done well?

I rushed to get this head-wrap finished to give to Genny, a co-worker for her birthday, which my school's faculty celebrated this past Friday.   With a time crunch, small projects like this are the way to go.  That way, they can be done and still good, too.  (This is my Manhattan Head wrap, found on my Free Patterns page.)

When I think about this question in light of the Gilbert's discussion, I realize that this sense of putting myself out there leads to perfectionism . . . and sometimes anxiety.  I am not alone.  I had coffee with a teacher friend yesterday, a woman who spends hours and hours every weekend reading curriculum and analyzing student data.  She also spends tons of money she doesn't have on materials for her students.  She worries constantly  about whether she is a good enough teacher and whether she will get fired, even though she has worked wonders with a class of third-graders from poverty-stricken homes. We like to get together and share our woes.  When she and I talk, our words probably sound like something from a Woody Allen movie, one where characters parse words and over-analyze every nuance of their behavior or, in our cases, also continually list items on our to-do lists.  

Something needs to give for both of us.  The warm weather today here in the South reminds me of that fact.  I hung laundry on the line today, enjoying the mild breezes. I rode my bike, and then sat outside with my husband and savored a frozen yogurt with hot fudge sauce. I also knit some on my next top-down sweater. It's the second top-down raglan I've worked on since January 17, and it's my own design.  I'm in a rush to get it finished, so that I can start some lighter, summery projects.  Right now, I don't have an answer to the good vs. done conundrum (but would enjoy reading some other people's opinions on this matter), so for now I'm just racing along, knitting, tearing out, redoing--in an effort to make this sweater done and maybe not perfect . . . but pretty good.  

Even though spring seemed to arrive this weekend, freezing temperatures are predicted for later this week.  Maybe I can finish this and wear it before the fall.  I'm using Malabrigo Worsted (Azul Profundo).  

This statue is in my neighborhood.  Just had to share, as I like the posting of different virtues
on each side.

I bought ten skeins of this DK weight yarn on Saturday.  It was $5.49 a skein, with 40% off.  I'm trying not buy yarn but couldn't resist.  I'd love to make a sweater for Saint Patrick's Day with this, but can't put myself through deadline stress.  



  1. Read your post this morning and I've been thinking about it all day. There's a profound dilemma here that I suspect many people encounter especially if they're perfectionists. A colleague once said to me that if a thing's worth doing it's worth doing badly which I winced at as it goes so against the grain with me! But on reflection I think there's some truth in it. Sometimes anyway! I do think sometimes it's important to let up on oneself - I am often my worst enemy in this regard and have to remind myself that it's ok not to do something as well as I could if I had more time, more energy etc etc! Glad you had some unwinding time at the weekend - that pic of your bicycle under the blossoming tree is absolutely super! I love it! Have been experimenting this weekend with crocheted water lily squares and you'll be pleased to hear Frog has eaten every single one and is looking very happy on it! E xx
    Ps your parcel went off last Thursday so I hope it will be with you soon!


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