I have a problem. My problem is that I’m a perfectionist. I have tons of things I’d like to do – stories (and blog posts!) I’d like to write, creative projects I’d like to launch, people I’d like to collaborate with – but more often than not, I find myself in a holding pattern, unable to start anything for fear that I won’t get it right.
I’ve heard this called ‘paralysis analysis,’ which basically means being so wrapped up in thinking about doing something – what to do, how to do it, when to do it – that you become paralyzed to act and never take the first step to actually do something.
In my case, I think (O.K., I know), that the root of this paralysis is fear. Fear that whatever I do, it won’t be good enough. Fear that because whatever I do or create will somehow be seen as an extension of me, that if I can’t get it absolutely perfect, I’ll be judged a failure. Stupid, illogical and irrational, but there it is.
Take this blog, for example. I’ve been a writer my whole life, and for many years I’ve wanted to launch a blog. But the irony is, the more I learned about blogging, the less inclined I became to write my own. All of a sudden, I became trapped by all the things I needed to do before I could start writing. I needed a custom header, I needed to become a Photoshop whiz so I could create fabulous photos, I needed a corresponding Twitter account, etc., etc.
Well, I don’t have any of those things, but one day I finally just said screw it. I’m going to pick a WordPress theme (thank you, Matthew Buchanan, Esquire is lovely) and start writing, and I’ll just have to fix things as I go. And this blog is quickly becoming my experiment in learning how to be O.K. with being a work in progress.
It’s not easy to let go of perfectionism. It’s a disease. And with creative projects in particular –which are most of the things I’ve been putting off – it’s particularly tough because they’re so uniquely personal that it feels even more vulnerable to put something out in the world that doesn’t feel ready or finished.
But (deep breath time) what’s the worst that can happen? So, I open myself up to criticism. It’s tough to hear, but it can only make me better, right? So, I tried to do something and it totally sucked. Oh well. I failed. Suck it up and try again. Fail again. Fail better.
So let me be the first to shout it from the rooftops: I’m a failure! I’m going to try many things and they’re not going to work out. I’m going to fail, and I’m going to fail a lot. But I would rather be a failure most of the time, and do something great once in a while, then be mediocre always and never venture outside of my comfort zone by taking a creative risk.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? In the oft-quoted words of Goethe, ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.’ So let’s begin.
Until next time, friends.