Monday, September 29, 2008

Perfectionism

You might be wondering why, exactly, the bookshelves I started at the beginning of August are still not complete. There are many reasons like the fact that I only work on them on the weekends and not even every day each weekend, or the fact that it's a reasonably big project. But the truth of the matter is that any normal person would already be done with them by now. I thought a little story might help cement this:

After spending several hours on Saturday night sanding down every location where I put nail filler, the next afternoon I started back up by wiping down the bookcases with a tack cloth. This was the final preparation for finally staining them. While wiping them down, I realized that I had forgotten to sand the panels making up the back of the cabinets. They are A grade plywood veneer, so reasonably smooth as shipped, but I could feel the bumps as I was wiping them down.

Now in theory, no one will ever be touching the backs of the bookcases. You probably won't even be able to see them once the shelves are loaded up with books. And even if you did move the books and started caressing the backs of the cabinets, once two or three coats of varnish are applied, there is a pretty good chance you wouldn't have any idea that the back had never been sanded.

So I considered, debated with myself, tried to continue with wiping down the rest of the cabinets, but in the end I couldn't do it. I stopped wiping things down and sanded down a part of the cabinet that will be only partially visible, never touched, and covered in multiple coats of smoothing agent. Even though doing that meant that I was going to have to re-wipe everything down afterwards.

I couldn't help it. Because I would have known that that the back wasn't as nice as it could have been. That sort of unreasonable perfectionism is the real reason why I'm two months into the project, and still likely multiple weeks away from completion.

Not that I am in any rush to be done with the project; I enjoy working on it after all. And the standards I hold myself to for projects like this lend themselves to a quality product. But not to getting it done quickly.

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