David Foster Wallace was one of the greatest writers of his generation.
His postmodern mega-novel “Infinite Jest” made him a literary star.
His essays — ranging from politics of the dictionary to the epic weirdness of the campaign trail and the religious experience of witnessing Roger Federer play tennis — are without equal.
As you might expect from such an insightful, creative person, his insights into the creative process were pretty phenomenal, too.
In 1996, when he was touring to support “Jest,” he talked with WNYC anchor Leonard Lopate. During that interview he dropped this gem about the destructively preventative power of perfectionism:
Perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything…
It’s actually kind of tragic, because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.
Wallace explained that no matter how amazing your finished product is (like, say, a groundbreaking novel), it’s never going to measure up to the hopes that you had for it.
That’s why, as sociologist Brené Brown has so thoroughly argued, doing great creative work requires removing the sense of shame that so often comes from not being perfect.
The quote, which we originally spotted on Brain Pickings, was turned into the delightful animated short below.
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