Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writing and Perfectionism

My wife recently linked me to an article entitled "You Aren't Lazy — You're Just Terrified." The author writes about her own struggles with perfectionism and how impossibly high standards make it so difficult for her to actually write anything. She had three insights that I thought were particularly relevant to most writers, myself included:
  1. Laziness is often a symptom of fear. When we think we're being lazy, the real problem is actually a fear of failure, or at least of not measuring up. Perfectionism whispers, "If you can't do something perfectly, don't do it at all." And since we can't measure up to our own standards, we end up doing nothing. But the problem isn't laziness. It's fear.
  2. Mistakes are a necessary part of the process. The only way to success is to fail. Falling short, missing the mark, not meeting the standard - all these things are a normal part of the process to achieve success. It's not just taking a risk that is necessary; it's failure itself. Failure is, perhaps, the best teacher of all.
  3. Perfectionism is exhausting. It's a whole lot more effort to figure out the perfect way to do something than it is to just sit down and do it. You only have a finite amount of time and energy in a day. You can use that time being productive, or you can use that time figuring out the perfect way to do something. 
The author's last words in the article are particularly poignant:

"It’s the only advice that has worked so far: Do the work. Write the story. Wash your dishes. It will never be perfect, but that does not mean that it can’t be good. Life is a lot better when you allow yourself to live it."

I certainly need the reminder to aim for "good enough" in my writing.

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