The life and words of Ashley, Erin, and Michelle

Another definition of Perfectionism May 26, 2009

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 10:31 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I overheard two ladies in my church talk about sewing. The first said, “Maybe you could help me. I want to make a slipcover for my recliner.”

“Wow,” said the other lady, “that’s a big job.”

“I know,” said the first lady with a sigh. “I was so excited when I bought the fabric and I can’t start it. I want it done, but I have this perfectionism, I don’t want to look at it if I mess up.”

I identified with her as only a fellow perfectionist can—then my thoughts screeched to a halt. Wait a minute, I’m not a perfectionist! Perfectionists graduate with a 4.0 GPA and scrub their kitchen floors with toothbrushes. That’s not me!

Still, how many things have I never tried because I didn’t think I’d do well? Because I couldn’t live with making mistakes? That’s also perfectionism.

And nothing wakes up my insecurity like writing. I want to write excellent, well-crafted words and stories. I’m afraid I’ll waste my time by writing something lousy. I’m afraid I’ll look at it and see that I’m no good at this. I’m afraid of humiliating myself in front of other people. What if I look like one of the bad auditions in American Idol pouring my heart out while the judges snicker and tell me to find a new dream?


So I find other things to do. I check my e-mail, again. I wipe the counters one more time. I let that idea for a novel or article grow stale in my mind. The stories remain unwritten, and I become the writer who talks and reads about writing, but can’t sit in her chair and write.

First drafts in writing are like a baby’s first steps. The fumbling words must come before the confident strides of polished prose.

That’s why I’m writing this post today. Before I sat at the computer, I nervously searched my house for something to clean, something to eat, something else to keep me from writing. But I’m here now, and I’m writing. And it’s never as bad as I imagine.

So how about you? What are you afraid to try?


4 Responses to “Another definition of Perfectionism”

  1. Erin Joy Says:


  2. Erin Joy Says:

    Sorry to double-comment, but this video of Francis Chan made me think of your blog post:

  3. […] part of my problem was the pressure I’d put on myself to be perfect. (See my old post on perfectionism.) But when I do my best and leave the rest to God, writing, though still had work can be immensely […]

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