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The problem with perfectionism

Posted by on December 14, 2013


Art by Cyan Jenkins for Beyond The Eyes, a poetry book by Ellen Eldridge

Art by Cyan Jenkins for Beyond The Eyes, a poetry book by Ellen Eldridge

I’m proud of people who claim to be perfectionists, and I know well I’m one of them.  But the problem with perfectionism is procrastination–leave a comment if you think I’m wrong.


These great ideas flood my brain and my hands quickly type or write them onto lists.  I have more blog calendars than I care to count.  My perfectionism hinders my thoughts and confines them to Word documents and pieces of scrap paper because I just know that if I sit on the idea until I have the time (cue uncontrollable laughter), then I will create triumphant blogs and share thoughts that readers won’t be able to stop from sharing.


My guess is many writers suffer from similar feelings, and I’ll further wager that artists afflicted with perfectionism allow creativity to succumb to that One. Great. Idea. What’s worse is that the artists, writers and one-hit-wonders who succeed at producing content that stands the test of time often fail to try to produce more for fear of falling short of that first high-water mark.


So, my solution to the problem of perfectionism is to write, to release those great ideas as they come out–don’t wait until you have the time to “perfect” the thoughts to get them on paper.  I am not suggesting that writers blog directly onto the Internet or overwhelm social media sites without thinking, but pick up the pen (or laptop) and write when the idea hits.


If I wrote a quick 200-300 word blog every time I thought of a great idea I would avoid long periods of stagnation.  Since avoiding this blog for a few weeks I’ve developed a list of about 20 blog ideas, but I haven’t written more than the headlines and, in a few cases, the nut graph .


My example of taking my own advice is this post, which I will publish without too much editing because I want to create, and creating does not mean it has to be perfect every time.  Depending on the purpose for creating, what one creates doesn’t necessarily ever have to be perfect.  The catharsis and the improvement comes from the process.  So, here’s to shaking off the spell of perfectionism and creating.


3 Responses to The problem with perfectionism

  1. P.C.

    Ellen! I really enjoyed reading this post. As a fellow writer/researcher, I can totally relate. I think the reason people can be sooooo hesitant to just SUBMIT is because they just don’t have enough faith in their raw/real thoughts about something. This happens to me too, although a big problem I come across is the constant fact-checking and wondering if every inch of what I’ve written isn’t somehow plagiarized. Add to that also the fact that sometimes I (and I think other folks too) are so scared that we’ll go through all this trouble of fleshing out some meaningful idea and really wrestling with it and finally laying it rest on paper only to have the world just not care. We’re so vulnerable when we write. And deep down of course we want people to care! Otherwise it would be private journalling and not public writing! As for the creative process, writers are WAY too hindered these days. There are so many distractions! And the digital world of social media has in many ways “digified” our feelings about just about anything (which is pretty scary). What I like to do when I’m writing is literally shut off the internet. And I still use old-school notebooks for outlines. If I need a reference or book, I’ll get it quickly but quickly after the internet gets shut off. It’s amazing how much more peaceful it is to write that way. That way, I get to just be a person left with my thoughts and not a person trying to present the version of myself/thoughts that I “want” presented to the outside world. :o) Thanks for this post! -Provi

  2. Ellen

    Thanks for commenting Provi! I spent many years writing privately in journals and often aspire to doing that again. Life gets in the way enough without adding a need for perfection on top of every project. I’m so glad you can relate!

  3. Word Works (@WWcopywrite)

    Well done, Ellen, for beating procrastination and getting this blog written. As a writer, or any creative person for that matter, it pays to know when to let something go. Otherwise, we would never make a living. I think it takes experience to know when that point is.