Today’s writerly thought comes straight from my own self limiting behaviors: Perfectionism. This is how it works,
“I’ve really got to get the rewrite done on this story but the only time that I have available to work on it is late at night when everyone is asleep. Then, just when I start to write, the baby wakes up and needs to be rocked back to sleep. When I finally get back to the computer I’ve managed to lull myself into a state of near sleep as well. The words don’t flow the way I want them to, they don’t sing, they’re not perfect. I’ll just see what’s up on FaceBook, and MySpace, and in G-Mail, … and maybe I’ll catch that last episode of ‘Legend of the Seeker,’ and now I’ve got an hour before bed and what can I really get done in an hour that will come out good? I should just put off writing until tomorrow. Hopefully life will be ideal then.”
Of course, it doesn’t stop there; it crops up in just about everything. Creating a website, drawing, working in the vegetable garden, or even putting together the blog finds me fighting my own inner critic to the point where I often don’t get things done. Or at least, that’s the way it was. (Keeping fingers crossed).
You see, perfectionism is great because what it allows you to do is say, “I won’t do anything unless I can put forward my best effort.” So when you don’t have the time, energy, money, materials or any other of a long list of limiters, you allow yourself to not do anything at all. By not doing anything you always have the chance to say, “I could be great, but because I refuse to try, you can’t say that I don’t have that potential.” It’s a sort of catch twenty-two. In reality, the reason we perfectionists don’t try is because we are afraid both of failure and also of success.
Yes, I said success. Has to do with that whole lowered expectations thing. If you succeed and do a good job, people might expect more out of you. And what if you can’t deliver? What if you can’t string the right words together next time? What will they say?
I think that a lot of writers are like this. We want everything to be perfect, so we wait and wait and wait, and never get anything done. We outline things to death, we start first draft after first draft, or edit over and over, never submitting, never finishing, and why? Because we’re afraid.
Today, I invite you to face your fears with me and put aside the quest for perfection. Allow yourself to write towards something. I’m starting by putting up this far from perfect post. What are you going to work on?