Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Internet Alter Ego Takes on Perfectionist Procrastination

Have you ever conducted a Google search or any online search for your name? Turn up some interesting people? I discovered quite a number of Dawns doing amazing things and more Dawn Goldsmiths than I ever expected. Every now and then I am reminded of one in particular.

I have set up Google Alerts for my name. It is a good practice to see if anyone is using your work hopefully with byline intact. Also it shows if other sites such as Technorati or search engines are picking up my writings. It also picks up some of the OTHER Dawn Goldsmith's postings to her blog: Change Your Life (A Little Bit at a Time.) She has some good columns.

Today's blog speaks to imperfection and at least beginning or trying whether you are expert, perfect or not. I particularly liked her reminder in step number 2:

"Imperfect action is better than perfect action. You can sit around tinkering with your business plan or novel until its perfect, or refrain from participating in that 10K until you're a better runner, or not bother about pitching to customers until you've got your branding just right. But ultimately, how is being perfect working for you right now? Got any clients? Finished that novel? Don't strive for perfect first time round. Cut yourself some slack. Being creative needs a little nurturing - not nagging."

Seems like I want everything to be 'just right.' It really shows up in my fiction and in my fabric projects. Perfect stops me in my tracks every time. What if I don't create a character acting absolutely correctly according to the 'backstory' I have given them? What if someone who was bonked on the head couldn't react with anger and what if someone in a car accident wouldn't see the world slow down around them? But then again what if I'm right enough? Or what if it is perfect enough for this particular draft of my manuscript?

If I don't persevere past this need for perfection, nothing ever gets done.

Often I listen to other people talk about inviting the neighborhood women into their home for a cookie exchange. Or hosting the family holiday gathering or making handmade gifts for their mothers-in-law.... My house is never clean enough, decorated good enough, nor filled with the furniture that is good enough for guests -- so no one gets invited. Not to mention the chore of making cookies that might not be perfect! And making handmade gifts -- they'd laugh! If they didn't laugh they'd think I was too poor to buy 'real' gifts.... Well, that's my way of doing nothing.

Perhaps if you look at my litany of pathetic excuses (I really should perfect them!) you'll see that your reasoning for not doing things may be just as weak as mine. I hate to keep quoting a tennis shoe commercial, but they are right -- JUST DO IT!

Or, in the words of the OTHER Dawn Goldsmith:  "Just Start. Start working on your goal today. Forget the reasons why you shouldn't, needn't, can't... the longest journey begins with a single step!"

One thing that helps me relax into a project, especially something like sewing or cleaning or painting or laundry is listening to a delightful book on tape. Just having the voices in the background help. But getting lost in the story is so relaxing that I stop obsessing about perfection or not wanting to rip out that seam or whatever whine is bubbling up inside of me. Perhaps music does that for you, too.

Isn't it funny how two unrelated Dawns can think so alike? Although, I think I see a family resemblence.... (Photo: Dawn Goldsmith -- the OTHER)


Janet Bailey said...

What a great idea -- to build on your alter ego's excellent advice in your own blog post!

One of my alter egos has written some interesting nonfiction books (on areas other than what I write about) and opened a bookstore; another is an actress. Funny how these reflect aspects of my own aspirations and achievements.

Back to the topic of perfectionism, I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "good enough" -- or even "NOT good enough but proceed anyway" -- and trying out small ways of practicing it. Uncomfortable! Useful!

Thanks for this.

Dawn Goldsmith said...

Hello Dawn - it's the Other Dawn Goldsmith here! I'm so flattered you quoted my blog. Thanks so much.

And you're right - in the past, trying to be perfect has definitely stopped me doing things, in particular having friends over and parties here at my house "because it's not clean enough". Isn't that sad?

Remember: the ones who matter don't mind and the ones who mind don't matter!

Thanks again Dawn. You've written a beautiful article. It is a unique thing that we both share the same thoughts and passions for literature and writing.

All the best,


Dawn said...

Hey Dawn! Good to hear from you. Is this like talking to myself? :) Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment.

And Janet, so glad you found this helpful. I guess the 'Dawns are of a like minds.' :)