Does Your Perfectionism Prevent You from Creating Your Life’s Work?

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I teach Literature to 4th and 5th graders in a private school. As we’re gearing up for summer, I’m hosting a book swap to get new books in their hands. We’re also talking about our favorite books, genres, and authors and making a class chart so that we can plan for our summer reading.

I tell the kids about the “Summer slump.” It’s a famous phrase amongst educators that speaks to how hard we work for 10 months, only to see our students stop reading over summer, and slide backward.

Current research shows that we can prevent said “slide” with as little as 15 minutes of reading a day. Therefore, I’m teaching my students to always have a book handy and to read everywhere. Squeeze it in on your travels, in the plane, on the train, while you wait in line, etc. We have to build pockets of space to get in our reading if we desire to read lots of good books and keep up our skills.

The same is true for me in my own creative life. I have many projects I’m working on. I’m writing a novel for young people. I’m creating an e-course on awakening your intuition + healing. So often, my perfectionism gets in the way. Can you relate?

If my space isn’t clean, or the desk’s not clear, or the paper isn’t right or the pens not my best one, then I can’t do it. If I don’t have enough time, or I’m tired, or it’s late, or I should really do laundry instead- if these thoughts get into my head, as they will, I’ll quit my creative endeavor and swap it out for dusting. Meh.

All these excuses are really the ego part of me, preventing me from meeting myself. The part of me that is here on purpose and has a mission and soulful wisdom to share isn’t much liked by my ego who prefers to control and resist- be desiring or in fear.

I think of J.K. Rowling writing Harry Potter on a napkin. I’m realizing, I, too, must fit in my passions and projects in the waiting line, in the bathroom, on a plane, train, or in the automobile. If I really amped it up, stepped up and took on my mission like my life depended on it (which it does!) then I’d get ‘er done and it wouldn’t matter when or where.

As I mature, I realize I care less and less about the things I did before, and that perfectionism that’s always prevented me from doing it, I’m going to help it move aside. I’m inviting in messy novel writing on dirty napkins in strange places.

If I really wanted to do it, nothing could stop me. Right? It’s time to put away the impossible expectations I inherited as a child, the harsh inner-critic who keeps me from my brilliance. It’s time to shine.

Join me? What are you up to? What will you create? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.


Rachel Claire

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