Giving up on Perfection (or at least, trying to)

I don’t know if y’all noticed, but in last month’s newsletter, some unnecessary commas snuck in. I knew it. I saw them. I even told my newsletter/website guru who formats and posts these things for me that I’d found a couple of commas that didn’t belong. Then, I decided to let those commas stand.

I decided that I’ve allowed perfectionism to become a burden that’s even more unnecessary than those extra commas. I have decided—and I’m holding onto that decision by the skin of my teeth on an hourly basis—that instead of trying to stamp out imperfection, I need to let it stand, at least some of the time.

Because here’s the thing. Perfectionism can stop you in your tracks. It can keep you from writing/making art/trying anything before you even start. At least, that’s what it does to me sometimes.

I’m afraid to start writing until I’ve nailed down every element of the plot and characterization even though I know that the act of writing itself reveals the story and the characters to you. And if you’re lucky, they’ll take over entirely just before the midpoint, and your perfectly planned plot will go out the window anyway.

I’m afraid to post on social media, because the most innocuous posts are liable to elicit extreme vitriol from others and ignite a firestorm of controversy. (How dare I enjoy a visit to an aquarium where they keep fish in tanks?) I’m afraid to comment on social media posts because I worry that my words might seem stupid or trite or may have already been said a dozen times by others.

I’m afraid to look at my book reviews, because I know that someone has probably hated the book, the writing, me as a person, and the horse I rode in on. I won’t read my published books or listen to them on audiobook either, because if I find an imperfection, I will be unable to fix it at this point, and it will bug me forever.

So, if you’re reading this—or anything I write—and you find an unnecessary comma, a typo, a trite comment, or a view you can’t agree with, do what you must to get over the trauma. Because from now on, I’m leaving perfectionism behind. I’m going to befriend my mistakes, release my need to be accepted by anyone other than myself, and make peace with the fact that I’m only human after all.

Maybe in my next life, I can come back as a cat who doesn’t give a rat’s a$$ what anyone else thinks. Meanwhile, I’m doing my best to be okay with not being perfect.

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