I’m not always a fan of The Classics, but I do love The Plague by French philosopher Albert Camus (yes, despite its regrettable lack of erotica). This novel is an amazing story about humanity coming together during a crisis, and the characters are heart-breakingly believable.
One of those characters, Joseph Grand, is writing a novel, and his friends constantly ask him how the novel is going. Well, as the story progresses, the reader learns Grand is still working on the first part of his novel. Actually, the opening.
Actually, he’s spent years of his life writing the first line of his novel.
That’s literally all he’s written. At the end of The Plague, Grand tells the narrator he’s pretty happy with his first line, but it’s maybe not quite perfect.
I love Joseph Grand. Because that’s totally me.
As I said in my earlier advice post, I spent over a decade of my life not writing anything. Because my ideas weren’t perfect.
And, like Joseph Grand, I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than the most perfect sentence ever written.
You can probably guess how well that turned out for me.
Of course, writing’s not the only part of my life where I feel pressure to be perfect. And if there’s one time of year that kicks my nascent perfectionism into overdrive, it’s THE HOLIDAYS!
Yes, I am officially Not A Holiday Person. I freaking hate the whole month of December, from the first to the twenty-fourth.
When I sit down to think about it, why does the season of wrapping paper, tinsel, reindeer, and high pitched irritating songs make me want to sucker punch someone?
I think it’s because, deep down, secretly, I actually love Christmas. The promise of brotherhood. The celebration of life and light in the dark of winter. The cookies.
But of course, loving it means I want it to be…
And when the cookies burn, or we can’t afford to get the six-year-old the mechanical flying bird she wants, or I just don’t have time to individually hand-craft 200 little peppermint pinwheels to send to all our beloved friends and family…
Well, I get bummed the hell out.
And here’s the thing about perfectionism. Wanting everything to be perfect doesn’t actually inspire me to work harder. Or to work at all. Instead, wanting everything to be perfect makes me curl up in a little ball and cry about how everything sucks, writing and Christmas cookies included.
So what do I do?
In my experience, there’s only one cure for perfectionism, and that’s rolling up your sleeves and getting the fuck to work.
Yeah, I might think my ideas suck. And hey, my ideas might actually suck.
But they’ll never have a chance if I don’t let go of the illusion of perfection, and just give it the very best I’ve got.
It’s not going to be perfect. Ever. I cringe now when I pick up Trickster’s Lover, because there are a whole hell of a lot of scenes I’d still be tweaking if I hadn’t just let it go…
So stand tall, my writer (and/or Christmas-hating) friends. Own up to your perfectionist tendencies. Look them in the eye.
And then punch them in the face.
And get back to work.
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