Perfectionism = Procrastination

19.1.2016 | 02:47

DragonDispatches from the Divine Dragon

“Done is better than perfect.”

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

“Practice makes progress.”

We’ve heard them all before.  They might be clichés, but….

I think it’s safe to say that I put the “pro” in “procrastination.”

procrastination

I am an expert at this.

There are lots of reasons why so many of us procrastinate.

My Functional Medicine doctor, who is also my chiropractor, let me off the hook:  He suggested that the main reason why I procrastinate actually has to do with a neurological imbalance.  That’s his area of expertise, so I’m willing to give the idea some credence.

Although sometimes I have to convince myself it’s not a cop-out….

This is purely unscientific, and I think it’s probably been said by many, many others before I came along, but I think I know the main cause of procrastination for most of us:

Perfectionism.

I know so many people who self-identify as “recovering perfectionists.”

We think perfectionism is some sort of badge of honor, a valuable, positive quality toward which we should strive.

We want all of our work to be the very best it can be.

Several years ago, my professional priority was to succeed as an author and editor.

As the author of three Young Adult fantasy novels – two of which won awards – I can let you in on a little secret:

It’s never going to be perfect.

Perfection is a Roadblock to Progress words on a road construction barrier or barricade to illustrate that a drive toward perfect results can paralyze you from taking action or moving forward

You can draft it.  You can write it.  You can re-write it.  Again.  And again.  (And you should.  No one is edit-proof.  Not even Stephen King – he said so himself, in his non-fiction book about writing.)

An editor will edit your work.

You’ll re-write it again.

This cycle can happen a few times during the pre-publishing process.

Eventually, you review the copy-edited, formatted manuscript one final time, and with any luck you catch a few last-minute errors and the thing goes to press.

You get your final printed copy, and hold it in your hands.  (I can’t describe the feeling of holding the first hard copy of your very first book, so I’m not even going to try.)

You open it up and start reading through it – this is your book!!  It’s your dream come true.

And then you find something that could have been written better.  You find errors in synchronicity or a plot hole no one noticed before….

It’s not perfect.

If you wait for perfect you will never get anything done - words of wisdom on a vintage slate blackboard

Most readers will never notice.  Some will, but they know nothing is perfect and that authors are human too, and they move on.

Maybe there are some out there who don’t want to read something if it isn’t “perfect,” but I haven’t found any.  And I’ve interacted with people who have read my books.

Don’t let the impossible ideal of perfection keep you from doing what you love.

My career as an author and editor never took off.

My book sales never amounted to much.

But I remember one of my writing mentors – whose workshop I attended at a Science-Fiction convention – telling me how proud he was when I actually finished my second book.

I had thought I was going to be a “one-hit wonder.”  I had only the vaguest idea for a sequel to my first book.

Until I took that workshop.

That planted a seed.

I went home and wrote five pages a day, every day, for several weeks.

And I had a manuscript.

My mentor said most people never follow through after attending that sort of class.  Even if they start the project, most never finish it.

I finished that manuscript, and it turned out to be the easiest thing I ever sat down to write.

(I love them all equally, but just between you and me, that one’s my favorite.  It’s also the one that did not win any awards.  Go figure.)

Could I have made it even better?

Maybe.  Probably.

But I love it just the way it is….  Perfectly imperfect.

Don’t waste time trying to live up to some sort of impossible standard of perfection.

Done truly is much, much better than perfect.

Radiant light from the word "NOW"

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22 comments


  1. Jace
    January 19, 2016 | 7:03 pm
    Reply

    I have lived this so much in my past. Thank you for the reminder and the push to keep moving forward. Cheers


    • daletchworth
      January 19, 2016 | 9:39 pm
      Reply

      Thank you, Jace. I’m guilty of the same and also glad for the reminder. Debra


  2. Helena
    January 19, 2016 | 7:24 pm
    Reply

    Ahh, yes.. another ‘pro’ and writer, chiming in. I’ll cling to the neurological imbalance reason from time to time.. but only as a sanity stop so I don’t beat myself up on all the other reasons.

    A fine and brief summary. Thank you. No doubt you went on to write something tremendous right after this warm up post!!


    • daletchworth
      January 19, 2016 | 9:40 pm
      Reply

      Sometimes we need that “neurological imbalance” reason, but not as a routine crutch. Totally relate to that. Debra 🙂


  3. Brad
    January 19, 2016 | 10:10 pm
    Reply

    So true. Great real life example of the procrastinating power of perfectionism. The War of Art made me blankly aware of my tendencies in this area. Thanks for helping me stay imperfect and getting things done instead.


    • daletchworth
      January 20, 2016 | 12:27 am
      Reply

      I’m all for staying imperfect, Brad, and definitely with getting things done! Even if it’s only a few small things. Debra


  4. Claire
    January 20, 2016 | 6:22 pm
    Reply

    Hmmm… Waited and waited to publish something and then saw a typo yesterday. Seriously, how did I miss it?


    • daletchworth
      January 20, 2016 | 8:10 pm
      Reply

      Claire — As another writer, I totally hear you. I see it often enough, so I know I’m not “edit-proof.” Debra 🙂


  5. Bonnie
    January 21, 2016 | 2:58 am
    Reply

    I’d been repeating myself that “done is better than perfect” as I struggled through my second blog post. An earlier version hadn’t made it: too long, too complicated, wrong tone. The new one had the same flaws again, I just didn’t seem to be able to write about that topic with grace. So I just clicked Publish.
    I don’t really like it, even though I think it’s full of good things. It didn’t get the attention I hoped for. I don’t know if I’m happy I published it, I kind of wish I could change it. But maybe I had to take it off my head to move on and write better things. Just like in my life: I don’t know if I’d be in the wonderful place I am, hadn’t I passed through all the mistakes.


    • daletchworth
      January 21, 2016 | 6:44 pm
      Reply

      Bonnie — I can understand the length problem too. My writing (as contrasted with Diane’s) tends to be longer, especially the fiction. Kudos to you for having the courage to click Publish anyway and put it out there. Sometimes that’s what we need to do, to get these things out of our heads so we can focus on the things we need to do, the things that light us up. Glad to hear that you’re in a wonderful place now. Debra


  6. Vin Libassi
    January 21, 2016 | 4:33 am
    Reply

    An assignment in college included the question: How does procrastination affect you? I wrote. I’ll get back to this one later.

    I’m serious. I did.


    • daletchworth
      January 21, 2016 | 6:40 pm
      Reply

      That is freakin’ brilliant. Thanks for sharing that little pearl and double thanks for commenting. Debra


  7. Cherie
    January 21, 2016 | 8:27 pm
    Reply

    Thanks, I really needed to read this! I’m still in the “recovering” stage, lol. Exact reason I’ve failed to set up my first business website since graduating from ITN. I can’t decide on a name or logo, etc. Need to just do it.


    • daletchworth
      January 22, 2016 | 9:32 pm
      Reply

      Cherie — Thank you for commenting. It can be so difficult to declare something as final if we don’t think it’s perfect. Debra


  8. Elaine
    January 22, 2016 | 2:44 am
    Reply

    As a busy mom, I have to remind myself that done is better than perfect.
    Thanks for the kind reminder Diane!


    • daletchworth
      January 22, 2016 | 9:33 pm
      Reply

      Elaine — Exactly right, possibly even more so for busy moms. 🙂 Debra


  9. lisa marie
    January 22, 2016 | 8:38 pm
    Reply

    great post! I too am a recovering perfectionist. I am still trying to figure it out and have to push myself often to put things out there that aren’t “perfect”!


    • daletchworth
      January 22, 2016 | 9:34 pm
      Reply

      Lisa Marie – I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a whole lot better knowing there are so many of us “recovering perfectionists” out there! Thanks so much for the response. Debra


  10. Jenny Cleary
    January 23, 2016 | 7:27 am
    Reply

    I didn’t think I had this issue, but the more honest I was with myself, the more apparent it was that I was haha 🙂

    Definitely trying to live perfectly imperfect, but always good to have these friendly reminders.

    merci <3


    • daletchworth
      January 24, 2016 | 1:27 am
      Reply

      Hi Jenny — For years I didn’t think I had this tendency either. Then came a career switch and that annual ritual of work evaluations. What was my biggest derailing trait? Perfectionism! Diane hit this nail squarely on its head. Thanks for the feedback. Debra


  11. Andrea
    January 23, 2016 | 4:55 pm
    Reply

    This sounds near to home. Trying all about getting things done, small steps day after day, with a clear goal in mind. Great article


    • daletchworth
      January 24, 2016 | 1:30 am
      Reply

      Thanks for the feedback, Andrea. Diane and I are both working on those small steps, and we’re making progress toward those bigger goals. Debra

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