August 31, 2006
Liz published this at 6:54 am
You Thought Multitasking Was a Curse
Have you got an inner editor telling you what you write has to be perfect? Perfectionism is a problem that can hurt you. Here are a few light reasons why you should give up trying to create perfect work. — Sometimes fun talk can combat a serious problem.
I don’t write perfectly. You don’t either. No one does. Leonard Cohen hasn’t gotten there — much as I love him. Nope, he hasn’t. Neither has Toni Morrison, nor any other living writer. You can forget Mark Twain, Shakespeare, and the rest of the dead ones too.
There’s no such thing as perfect writing.
Tell the editor in your ear to take a hike on the whole idea. Trying to write perfectly could cause an alien invasion.
10 + 1 Reasons to Write Well, but not Perfect-ley
If you’re striving for perfect writing, you’re aiming at something that no one can do. It’s a shame to frustrate yourself that way. You could be writing the same piece for days, or weeks, or forever . . . Even if you could get it perfect, I can give you 10 + 1 reasons why you really need to reconsider trying.
1. Kids everywhere would hate you. Teachers would be constantly showing them samples of your work, making them diagram sentences, having them try to write just like you — perfectly. Imagine yourself as everyone’s most dreaded homework.
2. The tabloid press would name you Ms. or Mr. Perfect and follow you everywhere, waiting for you to make one writing error.
3. Most folks would decide you live a perfect life, with a perfect family, with a perfect house, and a perfect dog. They’d expect perfection from you.
4. Others would try to prove that you made a mistake in something you wrote. They’d hold great symposiums of copyeditors to go over every thing in great detail to find one tiny typographical error. You’d live your life under a microscope.
5. The rest of the world would think you were a hoax — a person who took credit for something written by a computer. They’d go as high as the Supreme Court to get warrants to search until they found how you did it.
6. No publisher or reader ever would buy your work. It would make the rest of the work they publish or read look inferior. Who wants their experience with the written word ruined forever?
7. If folks knew you wrote perfect work once, they’d expect it from then on.
8. You’d never get to thank an editor.
9. No one would really know, because no one has ever seen perfect writing.
10. Being superhuman gets lonely. No one would ever want to play with you, talk to you, be friends with, or marry you. You’d make us all feel insignificant and not good enough, just by the fact that you did something perfectly.
PLUS ONE: Aliens from another planet would eventually find out. They would want to study you. They’d abduct you to improve their alien gene pool, and we’d probably let them just to re-establish the balance here on Earth. We would be sad for you. Ah, but worse, if they found that you really wrote perfectly, they might return to find more like you. There would be an alien invasion!
Why not avoid the possibly serious consequences of perfectionism — illness, stress, bad relationships — and adjust your expectations to write well, clearly, and with passion? That little change could make your life so much better, strengthen your brand, and possibly save the world.
I like you well and on this planet. . . . Besides, I don’t know what to wear to an alien invasion.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you think Liz can help with a problem you’re having with your writing, check out the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.