Lots of contradictory thoughts here, so bear with me.
There comes a time when my focus shifts from doing something towards doing that thing well. When I started composing, I just wrote what sounded good. I didn’t worry about good or bad, just if I thought it all worked or not. Then I started Studying. Then I started trying to Make My Pieces Better. The focus shifted from composing to Composing Good Music. After a rather toxic decade of that sort of behavior I am now right back where I started. Just composing. When I try too hard, when I focus on Composing, my music loses whatever it is that makes it truly mine.
I find the same holds true with every activity I do. My first batch of beer was great. I didn’t know what I was doing. Then I started Learning and the quality dipped. Now I sit back and don’t worry about it so much and the beer turns out better than ever. My recent sewing escapades are starting to exhibit a similar trend. I made three simple projects and dove into a whole Wonder Woman costume for my daughter. I just enjoyed Doing it. Recently I started seeing flaws, learning how to correct them, then focusing too much on the corrections and not on what I was actually doing.
I’ve blogged about this recently. While I have nothing against improvement and striving towards a better whatever, I find it damaging when I lose focus on the greater good. When we just focus on the improvements, we lose the joy in creating. The things we make before we know what we are doing were constructed with a sense of joy that we were simply Doing It. Then we change gears and try to reach some stupid Platonic ideal and cast away the joy that comes from participating in the activity.
I equate this to the golf tactic of asking your opponent if he/she inhales or exhales on their backswing. Then the golfer thinks about that minutia and not on the swing. The golfer forgets the saying of Basho: “A flute with no holes is not a flute. A doughnut with no holes is a danish.”
Be the ball.