The Pursuit of Perfection
Why are you here, reading this? Are you not supposed to be writing?
Yes, you are, but there might be a ton of reasons why you haven’t started yet, or why you haven't continued, or finished... Reasons why you haven't asked someone to read your stuff, or why you have given up after failing to get the feedback you wanted?
I know you have been thinking to put that great idea on paper for a long time now.
As those creative thoughts came, and you wished you could capture them right there, in that grand important moment... but you let them pass.
Maybe you didn’t have a pen on you, or a laptop. The thoughts fled away.
It happens to you a lot. You wish you had recorded them. You wish you had that precious time to sit down and write it all up – all those snippets.
Maybe you wrote them down but those ideas still missed a context, so you let them go.
When I was thirteen, I attempted to write a book. On a typewriter.
My granddad would importantly prepare a working space for me in the corner of the living room and made sure he alerted everyone trying to come in with a strict ‘pssst’, in order to chase them away from my sacred “studio”.
“Don’t disturb her, she’s working!” He said to all and guarded me in the room like a sacred treasure.
And I wrote about 56 pages typing away with befitting rage. After a week I stopped typing. I read it after myself.
It was awful.
I tore it into pieces and told my granddad I would never write again. Ever.
“But why?” He asked. He was really gutted, trying to pierce the papers together. But I pronouncedly refused to debate the topic. End of story.
Do you procrastinate? Do you doubt?
There is a good reason for it.
It is your pursuit of perfection. The “all-or-nothing” approach.
I decided not to expose my own criticism at the age of 13, because it was just too painful to see it black and white, right there – horribly amateurish and imperfect, compared to those historic novels about inquisition I read at the time that had inspired me so.
I shredded that little novel in making into tiny pieces with real contempt and decided to pretend it never happened.
And yet, I wrote 17 diaries afterwards and one of the best essays in high school, although I seriously believed I would fail it badly. No doubt.
And yet, I became a published journalist in several most-read Slovak lifestyle magazines – most of them gave in on my first pitching attempt. And I'm going for more.
No matter how hard you try, some of the things you dreamt of will come back to you in life anyway, and bite you in the ass. There is no escape.
We tend to delay things we are not too comfortable doing. But the only reason why we delay is our self-esteem – we still haven’t built that muscle. It's like going to the gym when you feel like you're too unfit to fit in.
Writing is a muscle that needs exercising and some TLC.
Like any other muscle – any other habit in your life you can only build up by doing.
You must have hated cleaning your inter dental gaps, driving a car, or doing your first job, or any other thing you’ve automatised by doing.
Now you probably don’t even remember how it felt before you started.
Listening to your own voice when you write and growing to like it, is a habit.
It's like learning to love yourself again.
And habits, the bad ones and the good ones are built by repeated work.
What people call "talent" is just a fraction of the whole potential game.
Open your eyes and see: there is no judge standing above you who will give you lashes if you try and don't think it's perfect at first. Who said it should be? It should be exactly the opposite: perfectly imperfect.
Life is imperfect and everything in life is impermanent just like we all are.
The more we expect, the more we expose ourselves to disappointment.
There is no such work of art in this world everyone would like. Your chase of perfection is made of irrational expectations.
Understand that you are unique as you are and accept it. Neither you, nor your writing does need reassurance it’s perfect.
Loosen on that death grip ffs :)
Write. No matter what who thinks about it – writing will instantly make you feel better. More writing makes you write better. It will work!
It will help you and your voice become one.
It’s not about being flawless, it’s about being honest.
Heres’ Joan Didion’s advice:
“Be lenient with yourself. Conceal your worst faults, leave out your most shameful thoughts, actions, and temptations. Give yourself all the good and interesting qualities you want and haven’t got. If you should die young, what comfort would it be to your relatives to read the truth and have to say: It is not a pearl we have lost, but a swine?”