The Crippling Effect of Perfectionism
Aka, just another day.
This past weekend, I opened my computer to work on my latest book, and ended up staying in bed with my computer for a full five hours. I was so absorbed with writing, I kind of forgot to eat (which does not happen often because I love food). The only thing that made me stop was a planned dinner out, otherwise I’d probably write until it was time to sleep.
I’m like this when I have a free day and choose to use it to write. I can’t just write for an hour or so and then stop. I’ll just keep writing for hours on end, happily typing away as I tune out every other responsibility in my life.
Which means, this rarely happens. Because if I don’t have a free afternoon to dedicate to my writing, I don’t write. So my writing schedule looks like skipping writing for weeks at a time, and then taking one day to write everything.
Meanwhile, I’ll fill every pocket of free time with new goals (hello, Substack!) and volunteer roles, or meaningless distractions. The martyr in me will then moan about not having time to write. But is it fear that is actually keeping me from my writing? Probably.
But even more, it’s probably perfectionism.
Amie McNamee of Inspired to Write wrote this on her Instagram this week:
Having STANDARDS looks like: Where I create needs to be neat and tidy
Having PERFECTIONISM looks like this: I will not create unless my creative space is spotless, silent, and has good vibes
STANDARDS: I prefer to have a long amount of time to create and schedule that in, but when that isn’t possible, I still show up for my art.
PERFECTIONISM: I have to have at least 3 hours in order to create
STANDARDS: I have a specific, intense, scheduled season of research for all my creative projects
PERFECTIONISM: I research and prepare for my creative projects until I feel “totally ready.”
STANDARDS: I share my art when I feel it is ready with an understanding it will never feel properly finished or complete
PERFECTIONISM: I never share my art because it rarely feels finished or good enough.
STANDARDS: I have big creative dreams and I chase them with patience, knowing I cannot achieve it all at once.
PERFECTIONISM: I have big creative dreams and I could never do them justice, so I stay small.
And oh man this resonates, especially #2, 4 & 5.
During the week, I get very little else done besides work. I have all these plans to make my life better within the three hours of getting home and going to bed. Go to the gym. Do yoga. Write for an hour. But in the end, I’m collapsed on the couch, scrolling social media until I give up and go to bed.
But here’s where my mind goes: I don’t have a lot of time to do all the things I want to do, so I might as well do none of them.
This week, I broke the cycle and wrote for thirty minutes before I started my wind down routine. And you know what? It was effective. I didn’t write a lot, but my characters had a pivotal conversation that adds a whole new layer to the rest of the story. This may not have happened had I chosen to scroll instead of write.
I don’t actually need 3+ hours to write. Thirty minutes at a time can totally be enough to write a book.
And why stop there? Why can’t I go to the gym for just thirty or so minutes? Why not tidy my room in five minutes? Or, I don’t know, actually set a publish date for these books instead of tinkering them to death?
Is your perfectionism holding you back, too?
P.S. I think there’s some sports things happening today. Go sports!
What I’m writing
Naked Coffee Guy, book 2 of my upcoming “Sunset Bay” series, and what I’m currently writing. Here’s a small peek at what I wrote this week:
We finally reach our destination, which is basically a large parking lot lit by street lamps, and a dome-like stone building at the far end. It looks kind of like a…
“A cave?” I ask, peering closer. It’s large, definitely man-made, and offering a warm glow, though I can’t see anything else inside. I turn to Mac, who still isn’t saying a word about what we’re embarking on. He gets out of the car and jogs to my side. I feel more grown up and elegant than ever as he opens my door and holds out his hand. Have I ever been on a date before? Looking back, I realize this could be the first. I didn’t think I had many firsts left in my life.
I take Mac’s hand, and he pulls me to my feet. Even in my heels I have to look up at him, and I warm at the way his blue eyes watch me, as if he can see inside my soul. This is different. How have I never experienced this before, any of this? The sexual energy between us is electric, but it’s more than that. I can see myself in the reflection of his iris, and it mirrors the connection I’m feeling with him…as if my whole being has been breathlessly on pause until Mac stepped into my life.
It is said that time is irrelevant, that everything that has ever been and will be exists in a sphere without beginning or end. It’s a complex theory I never understood until this moment now, in Mac’s arms, my whole life making sense. I have always known this man. I just hadn’t met him yet.
“Ready?” he asks. He’s talking about whatever lies beyond the threshold of that cave. But he could also mean whatever is in store for us, whatever this is, and whatever will happen to my heart as a result.
“I don’t even know what to be ready for.”
What I’m reading
Y’all, we need to talk about Prince Harry. I know so many people, including my own mother, have very strong opinions about Harry and Meghan, which I think is so silly because the most we know about these two has been slanted by news stories, most not even true.
And no, I don’t think any side here is all villain or all saint. But after reading Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare, I feel like I got a whole new perspective on everything.
The biggest takeaway I got from the book was the different freedoms of speech both princes have. Prince William would never be able to write a book like this. But Prince Harry, now free of the crown, can speak about his life and experiences candidly.
And he left nothing untouched. We even read about Prince Harry’s royal penis.
So many have slammed Harry and Meghan for their choice to seemingly be everywhere. But think of it this way—if you spent your whole life muzzled while the media slandered your name and character, wouldn’t you speak out the first chance you got…and loudly???
And that’s not even the whole story. Harry is haunted by the media because their obsession with hunting royals has been the source of his pain, starting with the death of his mother. The media tore apart several of his relationships. It almost got him killed when he was fighting in the war. They posted lie after lie to sell newspapers. And they tore into Meghan so badly, from racist remarks to posting personal letters, that it had her thinking of ending her life.
So, if the media has been so horrible to Harry, why is he now in front of the cameras, working with the press, and exposing intimate details of his life?
Simple. Because he now gets to control the narrative and undo the lies the media have blasted. And I’m not mad about it. Not even when he talked about his penis.
Now, I’m not going to get into what’s true, what’s false, and who’s in the wrong here. Mostly, because it seems this is a family that has a ton of unresolved issues, and in a lot of ways, the crown is in the way of fixing broken links. I also think that this book was written through Harry’s best recollection of his personal experience, as most memoirs are (and yes, I know this was ghost written. but it’s still Harry’s story).
Was the memoir good. Wholeheartedly, yes. Five stars. It was easy to read, and I feel like I got so much more insight into a family who are such a mystery, despite being in the public eye.
And I wish Harry and Meghan all the best as they continue planting their roots here in the US, and the work they will do as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
What I’m listening to
This week on my Facebook page, I asked people about the movies they’ve watched over and over. My friend Gina reminded me of “Elizabethtown,” which happens to be one of my most-watched movies, as well. Even more, it has a killer soundtrack, thanks to an epic road trip in the movie that has all. the. feels.
Enjoy this journey through music with this Elizabethtown-inspired playlist.
What I’m obsessed with
(Photo by Valley of the Moon Golf Club in the community I work at. This is just a fraction of what I see every day)
I’m not kidding, I love the hour-long drive I have to and from work every day. Not only is it gorgeous (I am surrounded by vineyards and hills), but it’s full of inspiration. Sometimes I listen to podcasts or an audiobook. But lately, I’ve been listening to background music and plotting my book as I drive. This practice has me more motivated than ever to keep writing the book, and I’ve made a bunch of improvements because of that think-drive. I’ve even turned on my phone recorder and voiced these ideas just so they stick.
An added bonus is the transition time this drive gives me. Once I get home, I don’t need to sit in my car and decompress before heading in the house (I know I’m not alone in this). I’ve already had a bunch of time with my self, so by the time I get home, I jump out of the car ready to greet my family.
And sure, I’m paying a lot more in gas. I used to fill up once every three weeks. Now it’s once a week. And those gas prices are craaaazy. But if that’s the cost for a beautiful drive full of novel inspiration, I’ll pay it.
I don’t just write rambling blog posts, I also write novels. Find them all here.
And also, we should watch Elizabethtown together sometime.
Whoop whoop! Elizabethtown!
Perfectionism…ugh. I hear ya. The way perfectionism gets me hardest is not doing something because I think someone else could (or does) do it better. The book Big Magic has actually helped me a lot with that monster.