2017 July (Perfectionism)

I don’t really have anything to show this month.

Spent all the hours instead on watching anime, playing videogames, and appreciating all their flaws.

Coming from having only schooling and testing and going to 4chan’s /a/, /v/, and more recently /ic/, I’ve only ever looked for how things are wrong. These are all places that pride themselves on having high quality insights and tastes, and it’s enforced: the smallest thing can bring you down. In school an insignificant trivia point can be the difference between one letter grade and another, a feature of the system that only becomes more prominent as you go from 10 questions on a test, 1 test a week, for ~30 weeks, that count for 33% of your grade in public school, to college, where there’s 4 questions on a test, 2 tests ever, and count for everything. On 4chan it doesn’t matter how popular or appealing anything is, there’s something wrong with it. And if there is something wrong with it, no matter how prominent that thing actually is, it’ll be given the spotlight over everything else, and anyone who disagrees has “shit taste”.

It’s with this sort of mindset that I approached drawing. For the anatomy grinding that I was doing, it served its purpose well. There really was always some other little thing to work on. But, just like how my good grades in class prevented me from thinking about communication and life skills, my grinding relieved me from worrying about my complete lack of ability to put together anything the common man would be interested in looking at. /ic/ always criticized how these proportions were unrealistic or that muscle insertion was wrong – I wanted my works to be free from the types of criticisms that I saw. In the process I “lost” the larger picture and didn’t see that I wasn’t making any works at all.

“Lost” because I vaguely know what it should be, but haven’t had it myself for a very long time.

I started drawing a couple of years ago because I had just graduated college with muh stem degree, couldn’t get a job, and after half a year wanted to have something to show for with my life. I didn’t actually start off grinding feminine body parts, that only happened after visiting /ic/. They had resources on how to draw figures and not much else, a lot of its discussion revolved around anatomy correctness, and I didn’t really know where to start or what to do. I had my own specific disagreements, but the scope of thought was basically the same: I didn’t pay any attention to anything except line drawings focused on anatomical correctness. Coming out of college having no more classes to study for, my bar of productivity was simply “do something that amounts to more than a winrate in a videogame”.

Drawing was “something to do”. Not “something I want to do”. Like probably many other young men it was a great attraction to be able to create my own fap material to specifically cater to my own tastes, but other than that, I didn’t “want” to draw. I didn’t have anything I “wanted” to draw. I needed “something to do”, something that was “productive”, and something “that could be successful”… and drawing fit the bill. Or I should say: I made drawing fit the bill.

It doesn’t fit the bill anymore.

But the bill was wrong too.

I wanted to “succeed” at drawing: specifially, I wanted to “not fail” at drawing, failing being anything that either looks bad or is anatomically incorrect. The idea of failure and success motivated me more than any idea of being able to create beautiful women with my own hands. As long as I kept putting in the hours, as long as those hours showed some improvement, as long as they didn’t fail… it was okay. “Okay” – i.e., “not a failure”.

The moment I start really thinking about something I’m doing it becomes a matter of success or failure. School wasn’t about this or that subject, it was about the grade; making art wasn’t about fun and viewing art wasn’t about appeal, it was about realism. To a lesser extent anime and videogames too, but all the same: something is only good when it overwhelms and leaves me with absolutely nothing to say. Having some modicum of intelligence and being trained to complain, this leaves me with “good taste”. But it also cripples me from doing or exploring. What I spend time with needs to “not fail” in the ten thousand ways i invariably and passively come up with.

I’ve been trying to remedy that by spending a lot of time with things I’d normally call “average” or “sub-par”, and things I’d normally not care about. There’s some truth to the criticism rebuttal of “well you do better then” and this is what I think that truth is. There’s the timeless masterpieces, there’s the lacking me, and there’s all the completed moderate quality works inbetween. The flaws in masterpieces are too obvious because of the contrast, the flaws in garbage are too obvious because there’s nothing else to look at, but for average “pretty good” no-name things I’ll probably forget soon enough, there’s no real concept of failure or success. Here’s a piece of entertainment, which people put many hours into making, with its own successes and failures, and it doesn’t really matter in the end because no one’s heard of it and no one will really remember it.

Recently I read a manga called “Gunsmith Cats”. I wouldn’t say it was a waste of my time. It wasn’t amazing either. It wasn’t my favorite style of art but it did its job. It was basically a slice of life with mostly static main characters, one of which i had trouble remembering the name of even at the end. But it was enjoyable. It was fun. And it must’ve been at least okay because the series ran for about 6 years. And for all of the things it did right and things it did wrong it doesn’t matter because no one mentions it either way these days and it’s been 20 years since it finished. “It has its good points and it has its bad points”. It was a thing. And that’s all there was to it.

This sort of idea seems like it should be self-evident to someone who cranks out a hundred iterations of anything in a week and has trouble remembering what happened two days ago, but there’s clearly some domain dependence thing going on. It’s not that I don’t “know” that it doesn’t matter what I do. It’s not that I don’t “know” that no one starts off perfect and even masters don’t make great things all the time. But I forget or ignore it when the time comes, and it only ever really matters what you can think of in time.

I took a couple of stabs at it.

A guy called Robert Stark who runs a podcast-show interviewed me on my BART/suburbia complaints. I didn’t think I had much to say or was at all a good choice for a show, but I gave it a shot.

In the few pages I did fill this month I thought one of the things looked nice and wanted to make it a bit bigger, with a few more details and some values. So I did that.

Will I care about the quality of these even three months from now? I don’t care much about the whole “the internet is forever, the media will dig everything bad on you in the future” thing, so discounting that – the answer is no.

But remembering and believing that is another story.

A story I’m not sure can be taught or learned through words.

perfectionism is dumb

because you are dumb

Talking with a friend I made this past year helped me realize how perfectionist I am. This was indicated in the previous post; I focus way too much on too many things. I’ve never really thought of myself as “perfectionist”, though I certainly do like the idea of perfection and seek it in most things. Which is fine, until “perfect becomes the enemy of good” or any number of idioms and canned motivationals. Which are fine if you can consume canned goods, but I’ve never really understood [why perfectionism is harmful] well enough to recognize the situation and stop myself as i’m doing it or starting to do it.

There are things that I hear that I agree with, but they’re not sufficient to really change my mind. “Everyone starts somewhere” for example doesn’t really work if I believe I’ve done it for a fair amount of time already. “Everyone makes mistakes” doesn’t really tell me anything either, unless I’m also told that I’m supposed to be making mistakes, which no one has ever said to me for whatever reason. Probably etiquette.

The one that ended up working for me was “you don’t actually know what perfect is”, therefore “you’re really being harsh on yourself for the sake of being harsh on yourself”.

If you admit you don’t know what perfect is, then everything should solve itself. If you do actually know what perfect is, then it follows that you know what you need to do to get there. If you know what you need to do, then you are doing it or attempting to do it well enough so that you can get to the next step. In other words, perfectionism requires imperfection, at least for a human executing in real time. For the people in Keat’s Urns or stories maybe it’s not required, but we’re not either of those.

This assumes that perfectionism doesn’t occur in goals which are achievable in one step. All mental solutions (as opposed to pharmaceutical solutions) to perfectionism seem to be rooted in appeal to a grander goal. But then again, ‘perfectionism in one step’ generally isn’t seen as a problem. We do it all the time and it’s encouraged basically everywhere.

It’s called “drilling”. Or “training”. Or “conditioning”.

In other news I have a new blog for collecting quotes. This time I actually wrote some stuff on it for a bit before talking about it, so I’m fairly certain it has enough life in it to sustain for a decent amount of time.