The Perfectionist

We’ve been conditioned to admire perfectionists. You know So-and-so? She’s a perfectionist. The comment is spoken in hushed tones of awe and respect, as if they possess a character trait that is dealt only to the chosen few who are on their way to achieving sainthood. In reality, the perfectionist is hardly a saint. He or she is more than likely driving him/herself up a wall from the inside out.

The perfectionist can be borderline obsessed with perfection. They feel like they constantly let themselves down, no matter how well they do. And they expect too much from those around them. Go ahead, ask the spouse or child or friend of a perfectionist.

Even though we live in an imperfect world there are still lots and lots of people who are obsessed with making their lives absolutely perfect. However, if we leave no room for error, then no matter what challenge we take on, the end result will almost always be disappointment. Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and that sense of wonder.

(Allow me to add here that perfection and excellence are not the same thing. Look the words up in the dictionary to see what I mean.)

Perfectionism means that you are trying really hard not to leave a big mess to clean up. But aren’t clutter and mess the very things that prove a life is being lived? Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can discover all kinds of new treasures under all those piles as you clean up, edit and get a grip on things. I’m talking about writing here. When it comes to housework, it can be just plain scary to find out what’s under the piles of stuff.

Here’s the thing with writing. When everything is perfectly clean and tidy, it suggests that your work is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of standing completely still, afraid to breathe even, because you might mess it up. Like my mother’s living room that we’re only allowed to enter on very special family occasions. You know it’s true, Mom!

Don’t be afraid to let your writing breathe and move and, dare I say it, make a mess!

And maybe let this apply to some other areas of your life as well.

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2 Comments

Filed under Being Creative, Life, Writing

2 responses to “The Perfectionist

  1. hannahkarena

    Good advice! I think a lot of people are so afraid of making a mess on the first draft that they keep editing the same sentences over and over until they’re “perfect” before writing the next few sentences. The book never gets finished that way!

    • So true. I’ve been in that place many times. I read recently that it’s sometimes good to do your writing with an actual pen and paper because there is no delete button to self-edit on the fly.

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