When my kids were little, they liked to draw, but sometimes crumpled up the paper in a fury because the image they were able to create didn’t look like what they were trying to do, it wasn’t “perfect.” It made me sad to watch their frustration and unhappiness, in part because what they created was often much more resonant and exciting than if it had been a perfect copy of what they were focused on. But I could also completely relate to the irritation. In Spark, I write about my own youthful quest for perfection, and how I learned to make my best work only when I was able to let go of the goal of perfection and revel in the messiness and unexpected grace of accident and imperfection.
This morning on the BBC Newshour, drummer Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters) talked about how he hates listening to music on the radio that is so perfect it no longer sounds human. “We should be imperfect,” he said. "This is rock and roll. Not everything is lining up perfectly. And that’s what it gives it swing and groove, and feel, and that’s what we’re after.” Digital tools allow us to play endlessly in the pursuit of perfection, but, Grohl says, that pursuit disregards where the power lies in rock and roll – in the emotion, not the surface perfection. Which is why he recorded his new album Wasting Light with the old technology of audio tape.
My family and I went to see American Idiot on Broadway yesterday. We're all Green Day fans, and the kids loved the show, but said that they’d choose to see one of Green Day’s concerts instead any time. The show was a lively, nihilistic 90 minutes – but too polished, too, perhaps, perfect, for it to have the same emotional punch as the original rock and roll.
In your art, do you find yourself seduced by pursuing the perfect? Or do you have the courage to present work that is more raw, yet may be able to touch people more directly and deeply?