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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Daring Imperfection


teddy-roosevelt-daring-quoteI had an uneasy feeling when I started reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, but I wasn’t prepared for the paradigm quake that came when Brown quoted Gretchen Rubin from her book The Happiness Project:

“I remind myself, ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’ (Cribbed from Votaire.)”

I read that and thought smugly, “That’s right on target. I just posted a blog about that.” Which left me wide open as I continued reading the rest of the quote from Rubin:

“A twenty-minute walk that I do is better than the four-mile run that I don’t do.”

Absolutely, I thought. I say that to my students all the time.

“The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer…”

That slid right under my smug self-congratulation to grip my heart. I got it. I saw something about myself that rocked me to my core.

I thought I had perfection licked. I happily write shitty first drafts. I’m willing to publish blog posts that are lightly edited because I believe that blogs are supposed to be less polished than a lot of other writing.

Perfectionism doesn’t stop me from getting words on the screen. It doesn’t stop me from writing fiction. It just stops me from sending my fiction into the world.

I suddenly realized that the “not-my-problem of perfectionism” is the main reason I haven’t published a novel.

It’s not lack of time or difficulty finding an agent or the shifts in the publishing industry. It’s my unconscious investment in what Brown describes as:

“a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feeling of shame, judgement and blame.”

Perfectionism2Let’s be clear, perfectionism is not about striving to be my best or challenging myself to improve my skills. I often do strive for excellence, but I can only do that when I’m in a state of self-acceptance, when I freely acknowledge my strengths and my flaws without shame.

I thought I was over my biggest fear that I’ll write something really horrible and not realize how bad it is, that people will ridicule me, will write scathing reviews or just shake their heads in pity. That my colleagues at the Loft will think less of me if I publish a “bad” novel. The shame I feel about the possibility of being a “bad” writer is visceral.

I now realize that I wanted an agent and an editor for my novel to give me approval, as if they could protect me from my biggest fear. As if ALL good books have agents and get published, and NO crap books ever get published. As if the authors I admire never got a bad review or criticism.

If I can accept my own flaws without spiraling into shame, it won’t matter what a critic says. If one wrote “Bane’s novel sprawls. She takes far too long to make her point,” I’d be able to think “Yup, that sounds about right. Yup, it’s not perfect, but it is a good read with compelling characters. And it’s out there where readers can find it.”

As painful as it is to see how I’m still using perfectionism, it’s liberating. I realize that I want to be in the arena more than I want to be safe. I’d rather fail while daring greatly than hide under the covers.

As terrifying as it is to contemplate, it’s time to take my novel off the shelf. I’ve scheduled a semi-retreat to blow the dust off my novel in January. Imperfection, here I come!

What’s lingering on your shelf? If you were to risk imperfection with me, what would writing would you send out into the world?

 

 

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19 Comments on “Daring Imperfection”

  1. number of veterinarians in us March 8, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either written myself
    or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all
    over the internet without my permission. Do you know
    any solutions to help prevent content from being ripped
    off? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

    Like

    • rosannebane March 10, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

      I don’t have any new ideas about how to protect copyright on what you post online. My best advice is to not post online anything you don’t want ripped off.

      Like

  2. Mary October 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Thanks, Roseanne. Thank you very much. Put well. “Catastophizing” only seems like a useful pursuit. It’s a weapon of mass destruction for a perfectionist to wield upon ones self. Show up. Play. Repeat.

    Like

    • rosannebane October 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      Thanks Mary for your perspective! I love “Show up. Play. Repeat.”

      Like

  3. Erin September 27, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Hi Roseanna, I’m so happy to have stumbled across your website today – and I look forward to ordering your book.

    Like you, I have come a long way with perfectionism (and I teach my clients how to do the same). So I smiled when I read your inner dialogue in this post because it reflects my own thinking: “Been there, done that, no longer an issue …” 🙂

    What imperfect would I send out into the world? I’m currently rewriting some of my webpages, and it is definitely a case of better-done-than-perfect (also known as “80% out the door is better than 100% in the drawer”).

    Like

    • rosannebane September 30, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      Thanks Erin! I love the “80% out the door is better than 100% in the drawer!” I need to revise my website, too and I’ll keep that in mind. And thanks for ordering my book.

      Like

  4. Joel D Canfield September 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I’m real good at looking like I’d leap with an airplane with a silkworm instead of a parachute.

    But I still get in a froth about my fiction sometimes.

    I’m creating a workshop for next year (the whole year) to help folks get the books done. I don’t want to clutter your comments with selling; just wanted you to know about it, Rosanne.

    Like

    • rosannebane September 30, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      Thanks Joel. Let me know if the year-long workshop lends itself to writing a guest blog for BaneOfYourResistance. I think my readers would like to know more.

      Like

  5. Linda White September 27, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Fantastic! This is eye-opening and amazing. Thanks for revealing yourself to help others! It takes a huge amount of courage just to do that. You can surely go one step further and get the book published as well.

    Like

  6. judyreeveswriter September 27, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Thanks for a terrific post. I connected (like a punch in the gut!) I’ve been accused of perfectionism and nodded yes yes in agreement, thinking acknowledgement somehow excused it. My novel has been a work-in-progress for many years, meanwhile I have published a couple of nonfiction books and have another in the works. Wonder if there’s a “Perfectionists Anonymous” group.

    Like

    • rosannebane September 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

      Hi Judy,
      I think there was talk of a Perfectionists Anonymous group, but they couldn’t agree on the right way to do anything so nothing ever came of it. (I’m kidding, but that could be true.) Isn’t funny how one genre causes us to clench up (fiction for you and me) and other genres don’t (nonfiction for us)…

      Like

  7. Melanie Brening (@MBrening) September 26, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    Wow. I have read this book as well and missed the above. I think you are amazing and if anyone were to read your novel and think it crap, all they’d have to do is look at the rest of you & your work. You are so fascinating and talented and make me think until I literally feel my brain expanding (but in a good, easy to understand way)… I haven’t known you very long or know you very well, but I can only imagine you are only fuller, richer & more beautiful than what you already appear to be. I’d love to join you on the journey into the arena and imperfection! I am working on a memoir that I am afraid yet willing to send out into the world…

    Like

    • rosannebane September 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

      Thanks Melaine! Let’s keep showing up, shall we?

      Like

  8. rosannebane April 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    Thanks for the link, Alljapanesallthetime, in your excellent post.

    Like

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