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So far during this A to Z Challenge, each word I’ve chosen will help you achieve a life less ordinary. Here’s the exception.

If you strive to be perfect, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t meet your goals. Sounds counterintuitive, huh? Who wouldn’t want to be perfect? And that’s the problem. Nobody’s perfect, but you can drive yourself perfectly crazy by striving to reach unattainable standards.

I know a really talented writer who will probably never publish a book. Why? His novels, while fantastic and well written, aren’t perfect. Every time he goes over his work, he finds more mistakes, or something he could tweak or make better. He’s been rewriting the same books for years, and still, they can’t measure up. Of course not. The more he writes, the better a writer he becomes, and the more flaws he will find in his early work. That’s to be expected. But does that mean he shouldn’t publish anything until it’s perfect?

That’s a classic example of perfectionism, but it can go far beyond that. How many of us put off something we really want to do or experience because the timing isn’t perfect?

Can’t have a child until we’re out of debt and finished school and set up in our careers.

Can’t take that family portrait until we’ve reached our goal weight.

Can’t write that book until we can find a spare hour or two everyday.

Can’t have people over until the house looks perfect.

Can’t sell the house until it is perfect.

The truth is, if everyone waited for the timing to be perfect, no one would have a child. Or move to another country. Or fight in the ring. Or travel around the world. Or write a book. Or sing on stage.

You can always be better. You can always spend more time striving for perfection. The irony is, often getting out and actually doing the things we’re putting off gets us closer to that unattainable goal.

Sometimes it’s better to have a less-than-perfect novel published than to never be published at all.

What do you think? Are there instances in your life where perfectionism has held you back?

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  1. Bish Denham

    I SO agree. People seek what they feel is perfection when in actuality if we simply accepted who/what we are and how we look etc. we are already perfect.

    What, after all, would the “perfect” tree look like? Would every branch and leaf be “perfectly” shaped and balanced and symmetrical without any kind of blemish? Achieving that would be impossible and how dull and boring trees would be if they all looked the same.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Bravo, Bish! You completely get what I’m saying. And who decides which tree is the perfect tree we should be striving to become? It’s all subjective.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Chrys Fey

    I had the same problem with the first book in my supernatural-thriller series. For some reason, the thought that something was wrong with it, that it was quite right yet kept nagging at me. So I’d go through it, edit it, rearrange scenes, cut scenes, fix, fix, fix. I never thought it would be done until I figured out I need to add in more parts in-between the action to stretch the story. Once I did that I have been beyond happy with it. It’s not published yet, and I don’t have an agent for it, but I have the hope that I will one day. 😀

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Hi Chrys,

      In your case, perhaps that had more to do with knowing in your gut that something wasn’t right with the book. There’s been many cases where writers have actually wrecked their novels by rewriting them to death. I’m glad that didn’t happen to you.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      I think it’s a work in progress, Lady Jai. We’re usually harder on ourselves than we are to anyone else.

  3. Frank Powers

    An excellent post with an excellent point. Sadly, I fall victim to this very thing, even when I know it is counter-productive. Even when other people have told me I’ve done something very well, something in me is creaming, “I could have done better.” If you know a cure, I’m willing to learn.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      A cure? Say thank you to the kind folks who tell you that you’re awesome, try hard to believe them, and then do better on the next project. That’s all I’ve got–let me know if it works!

      And thanks for the kind words, Frank–you rock!

    • Frank Powers

      That should have been “screaming” not “creaming”

    • Holli Moncrieff

      I figured as much. It made for an interesting visual. 😉

  4. Tui Snider

    I’ve let perfectionism hold me back a lot over the years, but a phrase I learned while playing in a classical quartet really helped me out. We were rehearsing a tough section, and it was still pretty rough, but we had improved. Finally, our group leader said, “Let’s move on. That’s close enough for jazz.”

    Now, when I catch myself fixating on trying make something perfect, I tell myself it’s close enough for jazz, and that helps me move on.

    ~Tui Snider~
    @TuiSnider on Twitter
    My blog: Tui Snider’s Offbeat & Overlooked Travel
    I am also part of the #StoryDam team, a friendly writing community!

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s awesome, Tui. I love it! Do you mind if I borrow it? Who wouldn’t be okay with being close enough for jazz?

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks so much, Barbara. Glad this resonated with you. Welcome to my blog. I hope to see you here again.


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