Cal Newport on two kinds of perfectionism:
The important part of my process — the part that separates this obsessiveness with the pathological variety — is that when my interval is done, I stop. Inevitably, I’m still well short of an ideal output, but what matters to me is not this specific outcome, but instead the striving for perfection and the deliberate practice this generates.
In other words, I want to keep getting better, not necessarily make this particular project the best thing ever.
I’ve thought about this before but never put it into words in my head. For me, this is the optimal framework: long-term perfectionism with a short-term focus on practice and shipping my work. This current film or script or project cannot be perfect (“you can only be as good as you are”) but if I do this every day for the next 20 years, I will get much much better at it. Perfect is probably a mythical unattainable goal, but very very good is attainable.
One of the great insights of psychoanalysis is that you never really want an object, you only want the wanting, which means the solution is to set your sights on an impossible ideal and work hard to reach it. You won’t. That’s not just okay, that’s the point. It’s ok if you fantasize about knowing kung fu if you then try to actually learn kung fu, eventually you will understand you can never really know kung fu, and then you will die. And it will have been worth it.