Recently I’ve asked myself WHY am I not writing? I can think about writing all the time, but then when I finally sit down at the screen, I feel as though I’m empty-handed. The words just do not want to cooperate with me. Is there anyone else out there who can relate??
I didn’t realize how much I dealt with perfectionism in my mind until I discovered how much it prevented me from making a lot of decisions. (Well, the truth is I didn’t realize it until someone pointed it out to me, and I noticed how much I was allowing this idea of perfection to control what I do . . . or not do.) I’ve been avoiding writing blog posts, moving forward in finishing my novels, and stressing over simple decisions (like where to eat or what to wear).
Perfectionism is often the cause of writer’s block for me. My mind’s been doing back flips over trying to figure out the “perfect” post, or the “perfect” ending, or second-guessing if what I’ve written is the way things are “supposed” to go. Especially when my writing doesn’t end the way I’d originally planned or flows the way I thought it would. (I know I’m not alone in that experience!) Then I wonder if what I’ve written is the perfect solution for the problems I gave to my characters . . . or if my blog post contains the perfect message of encouragement that someone else needed to hear. And here we are, weeks and months later, and I still haven’t written a thing. I haven’t even looked at my computer, which shows the great lengths I’ve gone to avoid this issue.
Another way I noticed perfection was creeping up all over is through teaching my son how to write his letters. We don’t do this all the time, maybe once or twice a week for about ten to fifteen minutes. I give him the time to go at his own pace, because I want learning to be fun for him. Typically, he’ll pick out whichever letter he wants, and either traces the letters in his practice book, or draws the letters on our white board. But there have been a few times when he asks me to do it instead, or he says he can’t do it. I’ve been quick to tell him, of course you can do it, you’ve done it before. Just try it. When he does, he’s excited and wants to keep going. He sees that he can still write letters, even if they’re not “perfect.”
After a few weeks of us going back and forth on this, I realized he wants his letters to look like mine. In his mind, my letters look perfect because they look like the letters in the book. He gets upset if he doesn’t draw the straightest line, or if his letters don’t look like the ones in the book. Then he doesn’t want to try anymore. I’ve told him we practice to get better, and of course I praise him for all of his efforts. I also don’t expect him to be perfect, or excel at his attempts because he’s learning . . . and he’s 4.
But I did see a bigger lesson. How can I teach my son that it’s okay to make mistakes, his work doesn’t have to be perfect to be great, if I am not holding myself to the same standard? I certainly don’t expect perfection out of my son, and yet I hold myself to this non-existing standard of perfection that no one else is holding me to. Haven’t I been doing exactly the opposite of what I tell my son? When will I consider my work great, even if it’s not perfect? Should I just stop writing all together because it’s not perfect? Of course not.
How can I tell him to not give up, to keep trying, you’re still learning, you’re doing a great job, you’re making great progress, working hard, etc . . . if I am not going to believe one iota of it for whatever I’m doing? If I don’t want my son to worry about being perfect, I need to model it for him daily. So I decided to start with today, and just write a dang post! What does matter is that I’m putting forth my best efforts. Of course I want to grow and learn, and I know anything could be improved. But I’m settling for less than perfect.
My name is Angela Sheffield, and I’m not perfect. I am tired of trying to be perfect. How about you?