How to Stop being a Perfectionist
One of the definitions of Perfectionism in the Merriam-Webster dictionary reads as follows:
a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable
But we, who suffer from Perfectionism know that it is more than just a definition in a dictionary. Perfectionism is a curse. One that renders a person incapable of producing work, because anything you do is deemed imperfect by your own judgement. But are all forms of perfectionism bad?
The Types of Perfectionism
According to this article in Psychology Today, Perfectionism can be a positive thing if it motivates you to overcome adversity and achieve success. Toxic, or extreme perfectionism on the other hand forces you to focus on avoiding failure instead of seeking success, and that puts you in a negative state of mind.
Effects of Perfectionism on my Productivity
As an aspiring writer I was the victim of my perfectionistic mindset for so many years. I used to compare my initial trials to write a fiction novel to famous finished works like The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Harry Potter. Needless to say, my work always seemed of lower quality. That stopped me from writing that novel that has been lingering in my head for the past three years. But finally, I managed to break out of this vicious, self-destructive cycle. The solution was quite simple, but I needed to hear it from someone else to believe it was possible.
I started taking an online creative writing course. The instructor gave a simple piece of advice. He said, “Your initial manuscript is not supposed to be perfect. Do not try to make it perfect. Write what you have in mind. You can revisit what you wrote later and change what you do not like.”
That advice, as simple and obvious as it was, helped me tremendously. I knew that finished works pass through a lot of processing before they reach the readers, but something in my head kept telling me that I need to do it right the first time. The simple truth is, No, you do not need to do it right the first time, nor the second time, nor the third.
Learning to accept the 80%
It is perfectly fine to revisit your work to adjust and tweak, but do not expect, nor aim for perfection. Learn to accept the eighty percent. The effort you will put into that last twenty percent, trying to achieve perfection will take more energy and time than the whole eighty percent you have already achieved, and chances are you will never get the expected results.
Now, I have completed seven chapters in my book. I am taking a pause to do some table reading of those seven chapters and to start refining them as instructed by the professor. I am also a part of a writers’ group, where we review each other’s work and give constructive feedback. The group helped me to notice some mistakes I have been doing and I managed improve my writing based on their advice.
Your writing might need some improvement, but who doesn’t? We all need to keep improving ourselves. Do not let Perfectionism cripple your creative process. And always remember: You are good enough.