Perfection is a Myth, Especially When It Comes to the Writer's Life

Writer at coffee shop typing on a laptop

My name is Michele, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

From a young age, I found joy and fulfillment in being creative. And yet there was often some anxiety in the mix, too.

It was because I thought everything needed to be perfect.

My earliest memory of enjoying creativity is coloring pictures in coloring books …

I loved the smell of Crayola crayons. (Fun fact: That distinctive and unique odor comes from a derivative of beef fat, which is used to create the waxy consistency.) And the colors were a feast for my eyes.

But choosing which specific color to use could be stressful.

What if I chose the “wrong” color? What if I started with one color and then decided I didn’t like it? The page would be ruined.

And in addition to my color choice anxiety, I had issues with coloring inside the lines …

I was firmly on Team Inside the Lines. In fact, my coloring technique was to first trace around the lines of the design with the crayon, and then color the inside. The waxy line of crayon acted like a barrier and helped keep my fill-in coloring inside.

I wanted those coloring book pages to be perfect.

But the problem with perfection is that it assumes there is only one “right” way to do something.

And I came to realize much later that this just isn’t true.

There’s Not Only One “Right” Way

Of course, it may be easy to see that there’s not just a single “right” way to color a picture in a coloring book. There are, in fact, an infinite number of ways to color that picture.

Different color choices, shading options, heavy pressure on the crayon versus light pressure, and so on … all will affect the final result.

And none are inherently right or wrong.

It’s the same when it comes to a writer’s life.

There’s not one “right” way to have the perfect writer’s life. There are more variations of the writer’s life than there are different colors in the biggest box of crayons.

Your variation of the perfect writer’s life is unique to you.

Perfect Is Personal, Not Universal

What I considered a perfectly colored picture was often different from my sister’s opinion. As the older sister, I naturally thought I was right and she was wrong.

Of course, now I know that we were both right.

Because the determination of something being “perfect” is based on personal likes, dislikes, values, and so forth.

This also can be applied to your writer’s life …

Your perfect writer’s life may not look the same as my perfect writer’s life. I choose to be a freelance writer, working from home, for anywhere from three to five regular ongoing clients at any given time.

But it’s no less of a perfect writer’s life if you’d prefer to be an in-house writer, working in a collaborative office space, for a single employer.

We can’t define a perfect writer’s life that fits everyone, because we all want different things. And that diversity is beautiful!

Perfection Is Lonely and Boring

Perhaps the biggest myth of perfection is that being perfect would make us happy. But would it? Really?

If everything was “perfect,” life would be predictable and boring. Imagine a baseball game where every at-bat resulted in a perfect home run, for example. It wouldn’t be much of a game! There’d be no excitement. No challenge.

Similarly, if we were “perfect” writers, we’d find no challenge to the creative process. There’d be no drive to grow and become better. I imagine there’d be a diminished amount of satisfaction in a job well done if success was a foregone conclusion.

And perfect can be lonely, too.

When we’re trying to be seen as perfect, we have to hide the parts of ourselves that aren’t perfect. That can be exhausting. And not only tiring, but counterproductive as well.

Since nobody is really perfect, this contrived state of perfection makes you unrelatable. It’s like you’re setting yourself above everyone else who has their own flaws and imperfections.

Trying to be seen as perfect also prevents you from asking for help when you need it. And that just limits what you’re able to do.

Embracing Imperfection Is Empowering

On the other hand, when you can accept that perfection is a myth and embrace imperfection as being desirable, everything changes.

When you’re okay with not being perfect, you can be more authentic with others. You can build deeper connections. You can ask for and receive the support you need. You can feel good about trying new things … even if you aren’t perfect at doing whatever it is yet.

It’s incredibly freeing when you can give yourself the grace of not having to be perfect.

Because, really, perfection can be a heavy burden to bear. It can hold you back from trying new things that could bring you joy. It can paralyze you as you wait for the perfect timing or perfect circumstances.

But when you can embrace imperfection, you realize that you don’t actually have to wait for the timing or circumstances to be perfect before you do the things you want to do.

In fact, your decision to act can be what makes it the perfect time.

You realize that you can color with whatever color crayon you want to. And while you might color outside the lines once in a while, the imperfection doesn’t ruin the page.

Instead, the imperfection makes it unique.

It makes it yours … whether that’s a page from a coloring book or your writer’s life.

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Published: May 3, 2024

1 Response to “Perfection is a Myth, Especially When It Comes to the Writer's Life”

  1. "If it's Perfect, it's not Art," said an instructor at the Kansas City Art Institute

    Guest (Roxanna Creitz KS)

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