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.
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?