I’m a perfectionist. It’s not a disorder or a personality flaw. It’s just an urge to make my work as good as possible. There are problems that arise from seeking perfection. I can edit over and over. I can spend a half hour looking for the perfect word to summarize an experience. Sometimes I have to let go and hit publish or send. I think my version of perfectionism allows me to do higher quality work. Of course, I’m biased.
On the flip side, too much perfectionism can decrease your output and slow you down significantly. Sometimes you have to wonder, are we not getting enough done because of an urge to be perfect? As a writer, I know that my first drafts won’t be seen by anyone but me. Still, writing nonsensical words on the page feels insane to me. My final drafts are usually fairly close to the rough ones because I’m careful even in the first stages of writing. It works for me. For anyone else you might have to just allow yourself to type. The real key is giving yourself permission to fail. Failure. That’s the ugly word we all hate.
To avoid the progress slowing perfectionism, my new mantra has become: Do, then perfect. I’ve promised myself that I’ll only review blog posts once I’m done writing and that I’ll go over them twice. Once I’ve done that, I hit publish. It helps me to keep writing blog posts and satisfies the editor within.
Previously, I reviewed every couple of sentences. I also spell checked in the middle of writing. Now I spell check twice. On this blog I’ve decided to let myself be human and risk mistakes. When writing posts for someone else I review again. I never want to post something riddled with mistakes and poor grammar. That would crush my writer soul.
It’s a balancing act. If you can’t take one step until everything is perfect, then perfectionism isn’t working for you. It’s working against you. Paralyzing perfection benefits no one. As trite as it sounds, you just have to start now and perfect later. I’ve met other writers and artists who can’t get anything done because one piece doesn’t fall into place. Instead of finding alternatives or setting that piece aside for later, they obsess and do nothing.
Don’t be that person. Find your balance between doing and perfecting. That zen like state will help you relax and become more productive. You’ll also keep your sanity. Don’t let the desire to be perfect stop all progress. Chant the mantra. Do, then perfect.
Does perfectionism get in your way? Do you have a technique that helps? I’d love to here your challenges and thoughts in the comment section.