Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In A Perfect World...


So many times I hear people say they gave up on a New Year’s resolution because they slipped, once, twice, maybe even three times in quick succession. They only made it to the gym 3 out of 5 days, were late 2 days in a row, waited until the last minute (again) to get the job done. The ideal wasn’t attained, so why bother.

They give up. Just like that.

But nobody’s perfect. We weren’t meant to be. We all know this. Then why do so many of us create so much additional stress in our lives trying to be perfect?

The perfect mother. The perfect wife. The perfect writer.

A very wise woman recently told me she doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions. She makes plans. I like this word…it feels more flexible. More forgiving.

Perfectionism leads to all kinds of destructive behavior, perhaps one of the worst being procrastination. I read somewhere that if you look deep enough into the psyche of the procrastinator it’s not laziness you’ll find, but perfectionism. They stall out before they even get started because deep down they can’t take the chance of being imperfect in whatever task they’ve set out to do – an especially sticky place to be for a writer.

Writing is messy. And ambiguous, and subjective, challenging, fluid, wildly creative and wonderfully unique to each and every one of us. There’s no place for perfection here. Ask any published author. Most are quick to tell you that they’d love one more chance to work more magic on the page, polish the words to a better shine.

So my plan for this year is to enjoy my new work in progress, allow it to be the rough draft that it is, forgive myself every day if I have to for not being perfect and move forward to The End.

No quitting.

No procrastinating.

I’m a writer, not a perfectionist.
Darcy

17 comments:

Tami Brothers said...

Great post, Darcy!!! I can totally relate. I have already flubbed on several of my resolutions. Yet, I continue to work on them. I decided this wasn't just my idea of what I'll try to do in January. If I have to re-start everything February 1st, then March 1st, then April 1st, and so on; then that will be fine. I’ll restart. I figure if I keep starting eventually I’ll find something that sticks…grin…

Best of luck with your writing. I like the idea of being able to forgive myself for not being perfect. That is one of many things I really need to work on. Thanks for the reminder….

Tami Brothers

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Great post! I studied the relationship between perfectionism and procrastination in college--and often lived it!

We should all remember to keep at it. If at first you don't succeed. . .

Anna Steffl said...

Thanks, I so needed to hear/read this. Just what the doctor ordered!

Anna

Tammy Schubert said...

Darcy, great post. I'm one of those people. The procrastination really messes up the writing schedule.

CiCi Barnes said...

Spot-on, Darcy. Always striving to do our best doesn't mean being perfect. Great inspiration today.

CiCi

beverley said...

Wonderful post!!! Couldn't agree with you more. So where are my pages cause I'm still waiting... :)

Dianna Love said...

Darcy -

Great post. It reminds everyone to stay focused on what they want to achieve. I'm not one for resolutions since I move seamlessly from one year to the next. I look at new goals for each day and figure at the end of the year I've accomplished a lot of one-day or one-week goals. That really adds up.

Love your renewed attitude about your writing so that you can enjoy it.

BTW - I love this new Petit Four blog. :)

Cyrano said...

First Darcy, I want to say, you did it! You posted without a hitch.
And I'm so glad you did.
You might think I'm overly emotional, but I read your post and cried. Yes, cried. In fact, it's hard to type right now because I'm actually balling like a little girl.
Why?
Well it's because your post rang so true for me. So very true.
I am a perfectionist. A horrible stifling, mentally destructive perfectionist.
I have nine manuscripts now. All but one are still unfinished. I start them with good intentions, reminding myself to push past my insecurities and just write. But I end up setting them aside, halfway or 3/4ths of the way through because my character flaw catches up with me. I'm suddenly sure I won't do the story justice. I'm sure that it won't be (in my eyes) perfect.
I'm working on the ninth manuscript now. I'm halfway through and it's killing me to continue on. I go for weeks at a time without looking at the pages, because I honestly fear that I'll see something I hate. And as you can see, my fear leads to abandonment. 7 novels, abandoned so far. If I can't make it perfect, then I move on to the next story. A vicious circle.
I blogged about a week ago reminding everyone to JUST WRITE. But one thing I didn't do is sit down and remind myself.
As you said, "Writing is messy, ambiguous, subjective, challenging, fluid, wildly creative and wonderfully unique to each of us. There's no place for perfection here."
You're right. There's no place for perfection and my goal for 2009 is to chant that to myself every morning before I write.
I promise myself that I will "allow my work to be the rough draft that it is. And I'll forgive myself everyday for not being perfect and move forward to the end."
Thank you so much for your wise words.
Have a wonderful week.
Tamara

Carol Burnside said...

Great plan, Darcy. Great post too. :)

While reading your post, I wondered where any of us get the audacity to think we could possibly write a perfect manuscript when writing is such a subjective thing? Definitely a thought-provoking post. Kudos!

Linsey Lanier said...

Darcy,

You really seem to have hit a nerve. I think you've spoken to all of us with this one. I've been going through the same experience with my new WIP. These are words to remember.

And Tamara, 3/4 finished is almost done. All you need is a little push. Hope this post does it for you. :)

Linsey

Darcy said...

Wow! Thank you for the wonderful comments...what a sweet blessing to know that something I said may have touched someone today. :)

Tamara -

Yes. My post did go through okay - thanks to Tammi's stellar instructions. :)

I wish I could give you a big hug! Hang in there...Linsey is right, 3/4 is almost there. I think maybe you need to change your perspective. Reaching the end of the story is not the end of the process. It's only step 1. There's no way it could be ready yet. Now move on to step 2 - revision. I know it's easy to say, but, as you can see from the comments, you're not alone. Call me if you ever need to talk! I'd love to hear from you.

Bev - The pages are coming! LOL. Promise. :)

Darcy

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Darcy,

I'm so glad you're one of our bloggers. You've touched so many of us today. I'm not a perfectionist, but sometimes I write the best I can but I'm not totally happy with it. It's not as good as so and so. What a waste of time! God made us each special (and unique), so we just need to be okay with being unique and go forth and be the best writers we can.

Sandy

Sandy

Susan said...

Darcy great job. I'm now going to feel better about the material I take to critique tonight. It doesn't have to be perfect just on the page.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Great post, Darcy. As a veteran procrastinator, I am keenly aware of the fine line between perfectionism and procrastination. Gosh, wish I wasn't!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I really recognized myself in this post. I'm one of those pesky perfectionists and I hate it. So I am going to try to chill out this year.

Marilyn

Darcy said...

What a nice thing to say, Sandy. I'm excited to be a part of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. I wanted to challenge myself to do something new this year for my writing career. :) It's all part of the master plan...LOL.

Thanks again, everyone, for your insightful comments. I'll admit I was a little nervous about posting my first blog - but you all made it worthwhile.

Darcy

Ana Aragón said...

Darcy,

Piping in here at the last minute...what you said is so true and touched my heart. I think it's absolutely amazing that any of us get past the first page! Thank you for reminding us that we're writers...and, therefore, not perfect!

And Tamara...keep writing...your work is great!

Ana