Being a perfectionist

Being the procrastinator that I am, I also like to think of myself as a perfectionist. The logic is simple – I expect to do a terrific job, spend a tremendous amount to time waiting for the optimum moment when the stars collide and inspiration hits with a physical force. That never quite happens. Instead I wait and collect and gather and wait some more and generally at the very limit of my deadline I get the words out.

This works well enough for short articles and blog pieces but it doesn’t work with book-length works, as I discovered to my cost on my last (unfinished) project.

The Brown-eyed Girl played at the beach, picking up stones and putting them in water in her bucket. Then she walked thigh-deep into the water and gently dropped every ‘fish’ back into the sea.

Each fish sank, rigid, stiff, unyielding.

I hereby give myself permission not to do a perfect job. I just have to jump right in. I have to be flexible, adaptable, buoyant.

Here’s to swimming, not sinking…

  • I like the idea of “shipping” (in the Seth Godin sense). Getting it out there, iterating, tweaking, getting it out there again. Incrementally. Improving, taking your lumps, growing stronger. It's a new way of doing things for this recovering-perfectionist. Maybe we can find our perfection in that process rather than in the idea/object itself.

  • This is so true for me too, Catherine. I also tend to focus on the details and this prevents me from moving my larger writing projects forward. I've started work on American Monsters Book II and I finally took out the title page, formatting, etc., everything except the story and I find that *not* thinking about the editorial and visual side helps me focus on the writing. I was so distracted by the copy-editing I would open the document and never get to the actual story. Now I have a rule that I am not allowed to do those kinds of administrative tasks until after the second draft of the book. It's not necessarily helping me write the thing, per se, but now when I open that document I can get back into it much more easily than before.

    You are such a gifted writer. Please do jump in! Swim, float, create.

  • kari m.

    Catherine, I jump in here and leave a few sentences. I`ve found that letting go of my idea of perfection, on my path, has not at all meant lowering my personal standards of things, as I first tended to think. After having struggled with these ideas for a while I realized that it was my own need to be in control all the way that needed adjustments. This has led me onto new and unexpected paths in life, and glad am I for this! This applies both for my work and private life.

  • Good imagery Catherine! As former perfectionist, who morphed into the 'sink or swim' type, I find the swimming gets easier as long as I'm thinking stroke by stroke. Lifting my head and looking at how far I've got to go only makes that shore look farther away. So, keep kicking, and don't forget it's sometimes okay to float…

  • Thank you ladies!

    Sezin, it's so lovely to play with fonts and layout though. Or making plans, and remaking them and never quite writing. Perhaps I should start writing in notepad?

    Anastasia that iteration sounds like a great idea. And requires that we let go of 'getting it right first time'.

    Kari the control element is one I didn't take on in this post, but it is there. So good to know it's brought positive things to your life.

    Catherine, I am terrible for diminishing what I have accomplished and being overwhelmed by the remainder to be done. Good tip, thank you.

  • BenP

    Hi Catherine, I enjoy occasional visits to your blog.  You might like “Dark Room” if not seen…

  • Thanks Ben, looks like a sensory deprivation tank for writing!
    Hope you’re well…