When is it good enough?
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
I always catch myself in a loop whenever I’d like to post something. I feel like I don’t know enough about the topic at hand, and I’m missing too much context. So I research and research until I definitely know enough to have a lengthy discussion on the topic with pages of research to prove it, but zero original work. More often than not, I’ll leave my pages to rot and I’ll move on to my next research project.
I find myself perpetually in the Valley of Despair illustrated in the Dunning Kruger Effect Visual.
The questions of “when is it good enough?” or “when do I know enough?” will be ringing in my ears as I flip through my haphazard research papers. Now not only am I grappling with the unreachable, exponential standard of “enough”, but now trying to hammer down slippery definitions like “knowledge” before I can do anything. It’s no longer about me making that step from 0 to 1, but defining 1 into oblivion so I never have to actually make that step.
My thought process goes as follows: “There are so many details of X itself and so many things related to X. I need to do so much research on X, Y, and Z, to grasp X to any degree. Once I’ve done that, then I can write about it.”
So, as I finally start to crawl along the competence axis, with pen to paper, I’ll see whatever I’m learning is already being talked about by other people who know more about it than I do. What value will my work add? And if I can’t use the standard of “enough”, what standard can I use? It just feels redundant, so why should I bother?
Most likely, my questions of “enough” won’t go away, but I can push them to the side and use other things to guide me, which include but are not limited to:
Recognizing that the effect is taking place. This isn’t something I’ve never experienced, it happens literally every time I learn. Okay… but how do I prevent myself from being discouraged by the deep pit of unknowability of everything? What if it’s all been said before? My main defense is that knowing things is cool, and there are countless ways to express the same ideas.
Attempt to accept both contradictory thoughts using dialectics. I.e: Maybe this has been said a thousand times and it’s pointless for me personally to say, and maybe my writing is useful to me and could be useful to others. Maybe I can never fully learn anything and shouldn’t bother, or maybe the pursuit of knowledge is still worthwhile.
Suffer through the bad. Even if it is stupid and bad, that doesn’t necessarily mean stop. If I want to have good work, I have to actually sort through the bullshit, not conceptually sort through the bullshit. If proving I can write something good is blocking me from creating anything at all, I can prove I can write something bad. Shielding myself from my bad ideas isn’t serving anyone, including me.
Professing extreme ignorance to the end of refusing to learn or create is not a virtue. It’s taking what could be Socratic humility in poor faith as a justification to be lazy. I’m writing this as a kick in the pants to me and anyone else doing this.
Go do the thing.