the following story is just one of the ways i have discovered perfectionism manifesting in my world.
ten years ago, i joined together with a group of friends to complete julia cameron's book the artist's way. we met once a week to connect, share, and encourage accountability.
during this time, there was one particular activity in the book that revealed an important aspect of my perfectionism...
the exact instructions for the activity:
"send postcards to five friends...send to people you would *love* to hear from."
my mind's chatter about the project:
oh, fun! i love sending mail.
first, i'll make a list of people who i haven't heard from in a long time.
(looking at the list, which feels slightly daunting)
wait, how can i send just a tiny little postcard to people with whom i haven't spoken in so long?
i know, i'll write letters instead!
well, if i'm going to write letters, i need to find some cool stationery.
(shopping for stationery that is appropriate for all five people on list)
ugh. i can't find any that works for everyone.
i know! i'll get cool greeting cards from my favorite store!
but i don't know if i'll have time to go there this week.
(procrastinating, procrastinating, procrastinating)
(rereading the activity the night before the meeting)
wow. it actually just says "five postcards" to "people you would love to hear from."
it does not say "people who you haven't talked to in a long time" or "appropriate stationery" or "greeting cards."
i do believe i just complicated this simple exercise to the point of not being able to complete it.
this activity made me realize that this thought process was not an isolated incident in my life.
in fact, it helped me notice that as a very high-energy, creative person, i love to brainstorm, create, add interesting layers...but to often to the point of paralysis.
i frequently take an idea and complicate it so much that it becomes impossible to execute "perfectly" and therefore gets cancelled.
this behavior is something i observe in my drama students: so many creative kids love to augment, brainstorm, and design (all wonderful things!) but often end up with an idea too big or complicated to be "shipped" in a timely manner.
so how do i deal with this?
i say to my students or myself: all ideas are encouraged, all creativity is supported, all excitement is welcome - but on this day and time, the project must be done. shipped. finished.
this is such an easy thing for me to say and such a hard thing for me to do! truthfully, it's a struggle nearly every time i do it. however, i find that it's getting easier over time as i practice shipping my ideas.
my personal mantra is: finished is better than perfect. something imperfect-but-real is so much better for the world than something perfect-which-lives-only-in-my-head.
my friends, do you ever "complicate and cancel" things due to perfectionism? if so, do you have a method for dealing with it?