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October 12, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Re-defining Perfect, and Showing Up At The Page

Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.
Julia Cameron


I have been rather distracted lately.

This is nothing new or surprising since I do have ADHD and I am easily and often distracted, but I can get frustrated with myself when I have so much that I want to accomplish and I find myself not getting things done.

Lately, writing has taken a back seat to not writing, and I am procrastinating at learning the pieces of music that I have been given for my voice lessons, despite the fact that I am excited by the new challenges that I am facing.

With writing, too many ideas flying around in my head at hyper-speed have created something that is the opposite of writer’s block, but with the exact same results. I haven’t written anything in over a week. (Until now obviously.)

I have finally come to the realization that there is only one way to deal with this and that is to as Julia Cameron often says “Show up at the page” whether or not I think I have anything to say.

Showing up at the page, can mean my word processing software, my notebook, or the pieces of music that I am supposed to be learning, and being gentle with myself over what I haven’t managed to do.

I can’t go back to last week and change that so I’ll have to deal with right now.

What I am paying attention to today, is the stories that I am telling myself in regards to these issues.

For example. I have a head cold. This is the perfect valid excuse to avoid singing. Or is it?

I love to sing while the vacuum is running and I can’t hear myself, so I did that today while I was cleaning up. It turns out, that I can sing even though it doesn’t sound that great. I don’t need to sound great to learn the notes and rhythms, nor do I need to sound great to learn lyrics which in this case happen to be in French which I don’t speak so who knows? Maybe the head cold is a bonus?

So much for that excuse.

Finally, I set a timer and used my imagination to glue myself in front of my music stand and got to work. And while I worked, I watched my thoughts. I noticed my urge to stop and do something else, was not because my cold made the process uncomfortable, even though it did. The urge to stop came from the voice in my head that was looking for any excuse that I could find to avoid facing the reality that the piece I’m working on is so difficult that there is a part of me that is still afraid that I will not be able to learn it. Yep. It’s pretty easy to convince myself to move on to something that is more fun.

I stuck with it for the amount of time that I had committed to, and even though I know I could really work harder it is a start.

And now it’s time to write. Funny how the words start to flow, even when I don’t have a plan as to what they’re going to be. I know this, and yet I make excuses.

I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, and though I have grown far beyond where I was in my younger years, I still find those old thought patterns exist, and affect what I do if I’m not paying attention.

Under-lying all of my procrastination and excuses is the fear that I will not ever do things well enough, no matter how hard I try… and yet when I face that idea head on, it is clear that the fear has no basis in reality.

Perfection is a white elephant, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a mirage in the desert. Knowing this, why do I respond to any urge to chase it?

I know that a difficult piece of music doesn’t become less difficult if I avoid it, and yet there is a part of me that still fears failure enough to not want to face the challenge. Once I do, overcoming requires nothing but trying, and then trying again, and continuing to try until I get it. It is the joy of eventually getting it that motivates me to start in the first place, so why do I let all of these old useless thought patterns get in my way?

Fortunately, I have recognized what is happening here, and that is the first step to solving the problem.

It occurs to me just now that perfectionism itself can only block the possibility of achieving anything that is even close to perfect. This may very well be the ultimate catch 22.

There really is no perfect anything when it comes to creating.  The most perfect gown I have ever made still gets wrinkled and dirty after a day of wear.  Music always has a multitude of possible interpretations.  Writing is an infinite way of communicating anything that can be communicated.

Maybe the key is to redefine the word perfect?

What if I decide that perfect is when I refuse to allow perfectionism to sabotage my efforts and forge ahead anyway?

What if I decide that perfect, is whatever result I get when I do the work, as long as I learn in the process?

What if I decide that perfect, is what happens when I show up at the page even if all I do is write an extra-lame blog post or something that I have the good sense not to publish?

What if I decide that perfect is everything that I am in this moment as long as I am living with the commitment to grow?

What if, I simply “show up at the page” and allow myself to accept the results without judgement?

mmm, sounds perfect…



Leave a Comment
  1. Viv / Oct 12 2010 3:11 pm

    Been struggling with similar issues; the feeling that nothing I ever do will ever be good enough.For anyone at all.
    Glad you found a way through.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Oct 13 2010 3:15 pm

      Hi Viv,
      I am sorry to hear that you are struggling too.
      I have not found a way through quite yet. As I know from past experience it takes time and effort to re-wire our brains for new thought patterns. Identifying the patterns that don’t work and coming up with replacements is just the first step. I find that writing about it is the best way to make myself aware of the old patterns so that I can stop the cycle of sabotaging myself.
      As for other people, I realized long ago that it is totally impossible to please everyone. I find it best to follow my own heart and accept that I am doing my best.
      I wish you the best in your journey.

      • Viv / Oct 13 2010 3:19 pm

        I am trying to step away from the compulsion to avoid unpleasant feeling etc and just let things be. If I am unhappy, then I will be so with full attention; depressed, ditto and so on. I am tired of people forcing happiness on me as a mirage or a drug or Shangrila. What will be, will be.

  2. Joan / Oct 13 2010 1:56 pm

    Thank you so much for the reminder that the benefits, the joy, and the goal are attained from the process, the added knowledge, and the voyage rather than the outcome.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Oct 13 2010 3:11 pm

      Thank you Joan!
      I’m thinking maybe you should have written this post? 🙂 You said it so much better than I with less words. LOL!

  3. Emily Jane / Oct 14 2010 9:00 am

    I struggle with this immensely, but I love the idea of showing up at the page without judgement – now to set about putting it into practice!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Oct 14 2010 5:18 pm

      I hear you Emily!
      That is the point I guess. It isn’t to figure it out and just do it. It’s not that easy. Practice is key. Maybe we can remind each other :)!

  4. Liara Covert / Oct 16 2010 7:29 pm

    Discover your blog through the Naked Soul. Appreciate how you encourage readers to get in touch with their feelings. You remind people there is always more going on than they think. Blessings!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Oct 17 2010 9:18 am

      Welcome Liara!
      Thank you for the lovely compliment. I’m glad that you appreciate the blog and I hope we “see” you around!

  5. antony / Oct 17 2010 1:26 am

    It is comforting to know that I am not alone in facing these issues. I have a masters degree in procrastination from the university of “never being good enough”!

    Through this I fear I have developed the “all or nothing” way of thinking meaning that unless I can do something perfectly there is no point in even trying. I have come to realise just how silly this way of thinking is and from now on I want to turn my focus to “showing up at the page” and just allow things to unfold.

    I totally agree that the time has come to redefine the word perfect! I am beginning to wonder if the quest for perfection is the fuel that lights the fire of procrastination..

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Oct 17 2010 10:07 am

      Hi Antony,
      It looks like we went to the same school! I do believe that perfection is the cause of much procrastination, though with my PHD, I can find many other reasons to procrastinate. 🙂
      That said, there is much peace to be found in allowing things to unfold as you have stated. The truth is, they do anyway whether we try to control the outcome or not. I suspect that control is only an illusion.
      The key here I think is having the awareness of the thought patterns that create the perfectionism so that we can change them to something thats serves us.
      Best of luck to you!

  6. tobeme / Oct 20 2010 8:51 pm

    Ah, the key is in redefining perfection. The perfection is what we decide it to be. We are already at perfect, it is a matter of remembering the perfection that we already are.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Oct 20 2010 9:00 pm

      That is so very wise and true Mark. As always. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by!

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