Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Beating the Inner Perfectionist into Submission

Anne Lamott wrote in Bird by Bird,

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft….Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and by extension, what we are supposed to be writing.”

I’ll give that a second to sink in…

Perfection is NOT the goal of writing. Hell, it’s not the goal of anything, except maybe brain surgery. I, for one, get very caught up in this internal quest to be my perfect self. And not just in writing. I want to make sure I say the right things and do the right things and in the process I get very tangled up and anxious. Because here is the secret…

I am not perfect.

There. It’s out there now. A load off my mind and a weight off my shoulders. Now anyone out there who was expecting me to be perfect can go on about their lives with the understanding that it just isn’t going to happen.


No one expected me to be perfect?

Well, I guess the joke’s on me then, huh? All along I have sought to make sure anything I put out into the world was as perfect and polished and ready as it could possibly be. Guess what? Very little has actually been put out into the world. I have hidden my light from the world or under a bushel or whatever the saying happens to be.

And who wins in that? Not me. Maybe not even you…

I fear that many of us have hidden our light from the world until it is ready, until our work is perfect, until we learn all the notes and rhythms, until we can recite it verbatim without a hesitation. And I fear that because of this, the world has been missing out on some very talented people and their magic. I think the world needs a bit more magic.

Chris Baty, founder of the National Novel Writing Month phenomenon and author of No Plot? No Problem!, said it, dare I say, perfectly? 🙂

“Embrace Exuberant Imperfection!”

I think we should seek this goal in all things. Beat that inner perfectionist into submission and just let that freak flag fly! You, and the world, will be richer for it.

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