One of the valuable things I’ve learned in the past decade or so is the concept of good enough.
As a native of the Land of Perfectionism, this lesson did not come easily.
“Good enough” always seemed to me a poor excuse, a euphemism for mediocre, so-so or downright lousy.
Making a living as a calligrapher helped cure me of such nonsense.
The fact is, if you want to make a living at something like calligraphy, you have to let go of the idea of perfection, otherwise you’ll spend 5 hours on one $3 envelope, which is just not going to pay the rent.
You have to learn to accept good enough.
Making a good enough CD
Last fall I took on a big project I’d been wanting to do for years: producing a CD of my music. I’d been stuck for the longest time, for lots of reasons, but largely because I didn’t have the money. Jazz singer friends were putting out CDs that they’d spent $8,000, $10,000, $20,000 on, and I just didn’t have that kind of wad, nor did I have a patron willing to play Executive Producer and give me that kind of wad.
So I’d go out on my gigs, and sing my songs, and every time, people in the audience would come up to me, eager to buy my CD.
And I’d have to tell them that no, there was no CD.
Eventually, something snapped, and I decided to hell with it – I was going to make that damned CD if it killed me.
No, I couldn’t do it the way I really wanted, but if I wanted to do it at all, I could figure out a way.
I could make a good enough CD.
Which, after all, is better than no CD!
So I called three of my favorite musicians and asked how much it would cost to hire them to play for a couple of sessions in the drummer’s garage studio. And after crunching the numbers for paying the musicians, mixing and mastering, and getting the CDs pressed, I figured that if I did a really quick-and-dirty, live-in-the-studio recording, after all was said and done I could get 1,000 CDs for about $2,000.
Which I totally didn’t have. But, I knew other artists who’d raised funds from their fan base, so I emailed my mailing list of about 500 people, and told them I was self-producing a CD and asked for their help.
And within a month I’d raised almost exactly $2,000.
Now $2,000 for a CD is dirt cheap. It meant just one or two takes of each song. It meant a garage studio with no isolation chambers, so no overdubbing bad takes.
It meant I had no other option but to accept good enough.
And you know what? I’m actually grateful for these limitations. Because the fact is, without them I’d still be working on that CD, like so many artists I know who’ve been working on theirs for years.
Am I totally happy with my CD? I’ll be honest: parts of it make me cringe*, and I wish I could redo them. But I’m damn proud of it. And I’m proud of me for putting out a good enough CD, rather than staying in stuckness and still not having a CD at all.
And onto blogging
Now I find myself in this new world of words and ideas and blogging, and butting my head into this whole good enough concept on a practically daily basis.
“Can I publish this? Why would anyone want to read it? Is anything I write good enough to put out there? Why am I even bothering?”
But everyone has to start somewhere. If my goal is to become a good writer, I’ve got to write. (And thankfully, you, my not-entirely-imaginary imaginary audience, are still, shall we say, an elite group, so I’m not making a fool of myself in front of that many people.)
And if nothing else, blogging is providing me a great opportunity to exercise my ongoing practice in learning to accept good enough.
Which is, perhaps, a good enough reason to keep doing it.
*Truth be told, I burst into tears when I brought the master to my vocal coach, because I didn’t think one of the tracks was good enough to put out into the world. She listened to it, and told me I was insane and should go home and get some sleep. Reality checks are wonderful things.
Click here to hear the tracks from my good enough CD, Online Dating Blues (including the one – I’m not telling which – that made me burst into tears).