Today I posted this in response to a discouraged writer on our Facebook Writers Group:
I think as writers and as humans we need a more accepting, loving attitude, a gentler way with ourselves. We are not perfect and that is so blatantly obvious. Yet it seems we spend our whole life trying to come to terms with our imperfection. The opposition and struggle in life is what shapes us and our writing. Your words have value, they have power. Sleep on it, go for a walk in nature, listen to beautiful music, laugh, sigh, ponder. And write again. Write for you.
At age 20 I was living away from home for the first time. Up to that point in my life I had taken things to heart. I was conscientious and a striving perfectionist. You get the picture, kind of neurotically disappointed because I never fully lived up to my own expectations. Then out of the blue one day I was pushing my bike up a hill in Leicester, England when I had this epiphany. This striving for perfection wasn’t the right perspective on life. It was making me miserable. In that moment something changed inside of me and I let go of perfectionism for good.
Did that mean that I didn’t care about myself, my life and my goals anymore? No, that would be ridiculously counter-productive. I just took a step back and looked at life a little more realistically, maybe a little more logically. The pattern of, get up each day and try, was still there. There were days I succeeded and that was great but there were also days I failed. However, now instead of dwelling on the negative, I just joyed in the knowledge that tomorrow I would wake up with a clean slate to try again. And that is exactly what I did. I just kept waking up each day and trying. I showed up and I practiced at improving my life.
Fast forward many years. I am close to 40 years old, divorced with five children ages 4-13 and in school full-time. In one of my many classes, a class on morality, perfectionism was discussed. The Professor suggested to us that instead of seeking for perfection we seek for excellence. Something stirred within me. This resonated with me and felt right. From that time forth I viewed my life as seeking for excellence. Does this mean I am an overachiever? No. Does this mean I think I am pretty awesome? No. It just means that I am continually seeking growth and improvement in my life.
Disappointment, struggle, opposition, failure are part of our allotment in life and we don’t like it. Yet without these things there would be no learning, no growth, and really in my eyes no life. Imperfection isn’t the enemy its the path.
So as in life, in writing. Imperfection: the disappointment, the struggle, the opposition, the failure are not the enemy, they are the path. We just need to learn from them, not dwell on the negative, be gentle with ourselves and keep showing up, practicing and seeking excellence.