The Perfection Poison


It’s been a busy couple of weeks in these parts. Lots of pretty amazing things going on. Stress, but the good kind. Mostly.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to sing with the worship band in church for the first time in almost two years. I had to get up eaaaaaarrrrrrrrrlllly to rehearse, and then sing through two services. I had an absolute blast. I felt like it went really well, except for one point where I was distracted and sang the wrong words for one line, but otherwise so great.

I got home, fully meaning to finish my read-through on my MS before sending it back to my editor (more on this soon), but my adrenaline ran out and I crashed on the couch for two hours.

When I woke up, it was as if I had been reprogrammed. Far from the high I was on, all I could focus on was that one line I missed. All I could focus on was the fact that I completely messed up my first time singing with the band because I wasn’t perfect. I fixated on it like a crazy person, fully realizing how ridiculous it was to do so.

To distract myself, I dove into my MS, which I have been very happy with following revisions. I’ve always been proud of this book, but each round of revisions has shaped it into an even greater book. And then I came upon one line that floored me in its awfulness. I won’t even put it here because it was just bad. And had somehow survived how many rounds of revisions?? I stared at it, aghast, before quickly deleting and writing a much more clever line.

But that line haunted me. I mean, how could I have written it? Worse, how did it survive so long? Did I really think it was good? It sounded nothing like my character! It made absolutely no sense in the scene. And it was DIALOGUE, which is something I pride myself on doing well. I fixated on that mistake, though there were several larger revisions that I have made that didn’t cause me to so much as bat an eye.

If you think I overreacted to either of these situations, YOU ARE RIGHT. But that’s the perfectionist in me. It’s what happens when I put this insane pressure on myself to do everything EXACTLY RIGHT the first time, with very little grace.

I see this all the time in Writing World. Not just from me. I think it’s how our brains work. We look at something we’ve worked hard on and say, “Nope. This is garbage.” We beat ourselves up over a project gone wrong, a failed line, a misspoken word. We go back over interactions the way we go back over our WIPs, and facepalm at all the things we did wrong, because we can’t fix them like we can our written words.

My new plan is to give myself a little grace. In life, in writing, in relationships. It’s okay not to be perfect. In fact, perfection is boring. If I didn’t fall down in slow motion on a regular basis, how would I entertain people at parties? If I said everything exactly right, how would new and fun inside jokes emerge? In fact, imperfection is the perfect form of communication. We’re all human, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I hope everyone reading this will do the same. Give yourself some grace. We are all harder on ourselves than we need to be. Lighten up. As long as you’re doing your best, you should be proud. Strive for imperfection. Life is more interesting that way.

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3 Responses to The Perfection Poison

  1. This is a great reminder. I think we are our own worst critics in all areas of life. I know I am.

  2. mmgage says:

    I definitely needed this reminder!

  3. Pingback: Exorcising Expectations | Rena Olsen

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