My Dad loves to tell a story about me. It goes like this. When I was four or five, I showed him a colored picture and asked, “Is this perfect, Daddy?”
He answered, “It’s good enough, baby.”
Cue disappointment. Pretty sure that screwed me up for the rest of my life. Thanks, Dad.
I’m kidding. Well, sort of.
I have tried my whole life to be perfect in some way–the perfect daughter, the perfect wife, the perfect student, the perfect writer. At the same time, I’ve tried not to be perfect, in order to actually be perfect, because I’ve known ever since that day I drew the picture that perfectionism isn’t healthy. Sound sanity-making? Yeah, maybe not so much.
At various points in my life, I’ve made a good effort at seeming like I didn’t care. But sure as the sun rises in the morning, I cared. I cared about everything.
It wasn’t until I started writing books that I could even make tiny progress. This was always something I secretly wanted to do but never thought I could. I could never be Virginia Woolf. Or Sylvia Plath. Or Charlotte Bronte.
I didn’t know then I didn’t have to be.
Perfectionism to a writer is a big ole wall on the path. No way you can get through 50 or 80 thousand words without a mistype. Without a stray plotline, or a misguided character motivation. Each word becomes a brick in the wall, another potential for imperfection to the perfectionist writer.
But I did it. Somehow, I wrote a book. Then another, and another. I was doing it. I was finally getting over my perfectionism.
Or so I thought until this week. I was reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and she spoke of the temptation of perfection and I thought, my God, she’s describing me.
The way I drop some projects halfway through. Or the way I don’t start some projects at all. Even this blog post. I’m tempted not to finish it because it’s too much about me and how could it be helpful to others and blahdy blah blah blah.
But you know what? I’m not going to delete it. I’m going to publish it, and I don’t care about what kind of impact it makes.
In her book, Cameron talks about enjoying the journey of creation rather than the final product. She strongly suggests this as a mantra: You, Great Creator (God, whatever), take care of the quality, I’ll take care of the quantity.
It’s time I started doing that.
I started on the right path with my books, I just need to be sure not to get bogged down. I need to be sure to keep telling my story.
There’s freedom in the telling.