I’m a perfectionist

I’ve got my motivation.  My empty bar at the right is just sitting there waiting to be filled in.  I have my manuscript to work on and some character sketches to do and yet I find myself doing everything but that.  I used to be at a loss to explain why this happens.  I want to write.  I think about writing off and on all day and what I’ll work on once I finally get a chance.

Then, the chance comes.  Both girls are sound asleep.  My husband is up at his shop working on something.  The house is quiet.  What do I do?  Everything but write.  Sure I need to make my daughter’s lunch for the next day.  I need to clean the kitchen up a bit to make sure it’s ready for the mad dash of the next morning’s breakfast before we have to rush out the door.  There should still be plenty of time for me to get some writing in though.

Bottom line, I’m procrastinating.  I recently had an aha moment while listening to an audiobook, Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents by Christine Carter.  In one section, Carter talks about perfectionists and how they avoid things that are hard for them for fear of failure.

I’m a perfectionist.

(In case you are wondering, perfectionism is not a trait of happy people, nor does it make them successful, according to Carter’s book.)  I put off writing for years, even though I enjoy it.  Why?  I wanted to write a book, but was afraid.  What if I failed?  I thought I had gotten over that.  Apparently not.

Why was I able to write more than 50,000 words this time last year for NaNoWriMo then?  Simple.  No one was reading what I wrote.  I was free to just write, no matter how horrible the writing or story was.  Now that I’m actually working on getting the manuscript ready to submit and my writing instructor is critiquing it, my perfectionist traits are coming out again.  The fear of failure and being told my work is not worth publishing is hindering my creative process.  This wasn’t an issue with the previous course I took.  (As I said, I thought I got over this.) Maybe because the assignments were magazine pieces.  They were shorter.  I didn’t have the same investment in them.  They weren’t my dream.  This manuscript is.

Writer’s have to have thick skin though.  I’m still working on mine and this will just be one more thing to help thicken it.  I’ve handled rejection letters already for my magazine pieces and I know I’ll get them once I start submitting the manuscript.  Knowing I’m going to get them and actually getting them are two different things though.  We’ll see how I take them when they’re for my manuscript when the time comes.

For now, I’m working on my perfectionism and giving myself permission to fail.  If this story turns out to be a dud, I’ll move on to the next.  My kids are helping me with this.  With my oldest, I’ve learned to let her do things on her own even though it was very hard at first.  Projects with scissors were the worst.  I wanted her to cut right on the lines.  Of course that wasn’t going to happen.  She was just learning.  Although I would be wincing on the inside as she held up her newly jagged cut piece of paper, I was mirroring the huge smile she had on her face on the outside.  It’s easier for me now.  I see the beauty in the imperfections.  That wasn’t possible before.

With my youngest, who is learning to walk, I am watching perseverance in action.  When she topples over, she works on pulling herself back up.  Fear of failure isn’t an issue for her.  If she keeps working at it, and I know she will, she’ll walk.  In Carter’s book, she states this belief that persistent effort will lead to success as one of the traits of successful people.  I’m going to keep telling the perfectionist in me this.  We’ll see how the rest of the month goes.



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