MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to Escape Lifetime Security and Pursue Your Impossible Dream: A Guide to Changing Your Career: Excerpt

By Kenneth Atchity

The never-satisfied mind

I was taught to be a perfectionist, but in a practical way. One hundred percent is the goal, but we aim for it with the foreknowledge that we're human and will never reach 100%, or if we do, we’ll maintain it only temporarily.

Yet 100% is a better goal than 88%, because if 88% is your goal you'll never hit 90%. So 100% is a better goal as long as you understand that goals are, almost by definition, unreachable because the enterprising goal-seeker will have set a second goal by the time he accomplishes the first. If your goal is to finance a $30 million film, by the time you've closed your deal for $28.6 million you'll be so busy planning your $75 million dollar film you won't be upset that you "fell short" by $1.4 million.

But the 100% standard is used by the Accountant as a superb sabotage mechanism. The Accountant uses the argument of "quality vs. quantity": "Yes, I know you could rush to production with this new Visionary script. But a million things can go wrong with it down the road and it's better to troubleshoot them all before you make an enormous laughingstock of yourself with an equally enormous liability. Let's do a quality job." So the Accountant proceeds to supervise an endless troubleshooting expedition that tunes, fine-tunes, and re-tunes the script to the point that it's no longer recognizable; or until someone else goes public with the same story. "But I want it to be 100% perfect," it argues when the Mind's Eye scolds it. "We'll settle for 98%," replies the Mind's Eye, realizing that such a compromise is required if we're going to reap the benefits of the Visionary's great idea and escape from “development hell.”

Without losing the spirit of the quest for excellence, the perfectionist, also known as “the judge” or “the critic,” must be tamed if you are to accomplish your goals, objectives, and dreams. How do you know when to stop fine-tuning? You don't. Rewrite can go on indefinitely. You set a deadline, beyond which you will cease fine-tuning and begin pre-production.



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