I saw a 6-tweet thread about doing a not-great job at things the other day that I keep thinking about. It was written by an attorney named Heron Greenesmith, and it kept surprising me. This is how it starts:
Your yearly reminder that most things worth doing are worth doing poorly. F**k perfection. Art? Do it poorly. School work? Do half rather than not doing it at all. Calling a friend? Text them if you’re afraid to call rather than not talking to them at all.
I read that first line: “most things worth doing are worth doing poorly” and thought I was about to read a silly or funny thread. The opposite idea is so ingrained in me — anything worth doing, is worth doing well — that at first, I literally couldn’t comprehend the author was being serious. I’m so glad I kept reading:
Parenting? Literally just be there, even if you’re half-asleep and on your phone. Eating? Go to McDonalds rather than waiting for something perfect. Cleaning yourself? Wash your pits right now instead of feeling guilty about not taking a full shower.
Doing things poorly is CRUCIAL to harm reduction. Need to smoke pot to reduce your alcohol use? Awesome. Need to shop at Amazon even though it’s a nightmare-land, cause if you don’t, you’ll be spending way too much money? Cool. Need to throw away that recyclable can? DO IT.
The line that really caught me is: “Doing things poorly is CRUCIAL to harm reduction.” I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve heard that idea presented, and I had to stop and think about it for awhile. I mean, it’s a concept I believe, but I just hadn’t seen it stated like that.
An example of this idea in my own writing is when I talk about pulling-out as a birth control option. Should the man be wearing a condom if the couple is not trying to conceive? Yes, for sure. But if he’s not, he should at the very least pull-out. It’s not as effective as a condom, but it’s more effective than not doing anything.
The thread goes on:
Individual choices make SO LITTLE IMPACT on things like climate change. And capitalism LIES by telling us we have easy more choices than we do, and that our choices are tied to our worth. F**K THAT SH*T. Literally do everything badly.
I loved this part, because I fully agree and think it’s so true. Of course I recycle, and am using earth-friendly insulation in the house renovation, and walk more often than drive — and do what I can to be a good steward of the Earth’s resources. But sometimes I feel like I’m just doing it because it’s the “right” thing to do, not because I think I’m really making an impact. I happen to agree with the thread author that it’s not really about individual choices, and that true measurable improvements to things like the climate, require big structural change.
The thread ends strongly:
We need all of us here doing poorly for as long as possible, not striving for perfection and flaming out. Don’t. Flame. Out. Suck at everything. Be a role model of doing things half-assed. You know who else can half-ass shit? People born into wealth. Cis men. White people. Abled people. So why the f**k not half-ass everything. LEAN OUT.
I’m not sure how others read that, but I saw it as a message for those who want to take themselves out of the game; who want to die. It’s better that you’re here, being crappy at things, then not here at all.
Based on the comments in response, a lot of people read it as an anti-perfection thread. And I suppose it is. But I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist at all, and it was definitely speaking to me. I do try to do things well. I take pride in doing things well, and I’m sure that in some ways my identity is wrapped up in doing things well.
But what kind of harm am I choosing not to reduce, when I insist on doing something well?
What are your thoughts on this? How would you feel about approaching the day, ready and willing to do everything badly? Does the whole idea freak you out? Were you taught that anything worth doing is worth doing well? Did anything in the thread resonate with you? All of it? None of it? Are you already a pro at doing things badly? I’d love to hear.
P.S. — Autocorrect fail card.