Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Name is Susan and I Have a Perfection Problem

It's interesting how situations can force you to confront your character, showing you things you never wanted to admit about yourself.

This show is a challenge - as I have mentioned, I am doing two jobs at the same time. At first, I was in a panic. I was frantically cranking out edited shows in a desperate attempt to stay a week or two ahead of the air schedule. It's not a good thing when the show date arrives and there's nothing to put there.

Then I had a couple of weeks of low production - I was doing interviews, stockpiling sound from the other sources and beginning to line up the dominoes of future shows in my mind.

As this was going on, I noticed something - I was relaxing my standards for my daily news job. Not that I wasn't getting the stories told, but I was less concerned about being wildly creative or breathtakingly sound-rich. And it bothers me. My fixation on doing a good job led to three awards for three different stories in 2008 and I'm prouder of that achievement than I admit to myself. I don't see any awards coming from the stories I've produced since taking over The Show With Issues.

Perhaps I'm a perfectionist?

It seems unlikely, really. I'm not a meticulous person - when I paint a room, I make a mess and clean up the slop later. I clean house but I miss the dustballs in the corner. When I write I tend to go with my first draft with very few revisions. That doesn't sound like a perfectionist to me.

Yet when I noticed that I was also making The Show less complex, easier to edit and basically cutting corners to make my life a little easier, it bothered me. A lot. The Show and my news stories have me all over's my writing, my name and my voice. And I want who I am to be identified with something really, really good.

Yet this past week, I did the usual seven stories for the daily news, plus cranked out four (yes four!) half hour edited shows. As I filed the last one, I got an email back from my supervisor saying, "Okay, insane lady." And I had to agree. Why on earth am I pushing so hard to be the most stellar worker on the planet?

I don't think I am looking for public acclaim (although that's up for discussion and thought as well) but I most certainly want the people I work with to say "Good job!" when that's what I've done.

So am I going to drive myself into the ground trying to be so terrific that my colleagues will not be able to avoid giving me kudos? That's sick. Or am I so horrified by incompetence that I go overboard to make sure I never get stuck with that label?

I am finding that the one part of the job where I thought I was weak is becoming a strength- I interview well. The people I'm talking with are thoroughly enjoying themselves and the resulting interviews are fascinating - we go in depth in a hurry.

I spoke with two authors on books about the Iraq war and its connection with big oil. We covered the bases in twenty minutes and had a good time doing it. Then I spoke with actress Laila Robins for the arts segment of the show and we ended up having a really good discussion about violence in the movies and on stage and what that means about our society. It's nowhere either of us thought we'd be going, but we poked around and she had some really strong opinions that I think the listeners are going to find compelling.

So goody - Perfect Me has something to feel good about. But Perfect Me isn't so happy with the quality of her day to day work, and Perfect Me is noticing every compromise in The Show. Where I plugged in two or three songs between stories, I now do one. I'm getting it down to a formula, and that makes it far easier to do. But something's being lost because of a time crunch and I'm sorry to see it go.

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