Perfectionism: a curse or a necessity? By Claire Musters
I sighed as my son sat in front of me sobbing. It was an all too-familiar scenario. He was practising his drum homework for the first time since a long break in the summer holidays and he couldn’t play it immediately so fell apart. The anger, frustration and sadness that emanated from him were the same as I experience regularly with his sister. Having played the piano for a couple of years, she has soared through her first exam. And yet, even though she knows the drill by now, those first few days with a new piece are full of the same angst. She, in particular, is a perfectionist and finds it immensely irritating if she can’t achieve something straight away. So having to learn and practise pieces is good for her – and difficult for me…
As my son was in full-on meltdown in front of me my heart sank. I remember saying in my head: ‘please Lord not another one whose perfectionism will have to be dealt with day by day’. But then I started thinking about the perfectionist streak inside of me. Is it a blessing or a curse as a writer?
I am very aware of the importance of crafting words, of not settling for the first set of sentences that come tapping out onto the keyboard. And yet, as we search for those elusive perfect sentences, might we also, at times, be sucking the life out of our creativity? There is a balance to be struck between always wanting to make our work better and never allowing ourselves to settle, to believe we have the best finished work we could possibly produce.
Of course, even when we think we are finished, any perfectionist tendencies can also be floored by the editing process – that humbling moment when someone else’s eyes spot things yours haven’t or the editor suggests a slightly different approach, which necessitates yet more revisions.
I think that, personally, it is absolutely vital to have that drive behind me to create as well as I can. I do recognise, however, that the perfectionism inside of me can make it hard at certain moments in the creating process – but it does push me to explore where my writing can go.
Being a perfectionist can be hard during the pitching processes – especially when you think you have a great idea for a book or article but no one else seems to agree with you! That’s the humbling moment that you have to agree that perhaps it wasn’t the perfect idea and either change tack or change idea completely!
So what do you think? Are you aware of how perfectionism tendencies are played out in your writing processes? Do you find them helpful or hindering?
Claire is a freelance writer and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Guide: Managing Conflict and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Today. To find out more about her, please visit www.clairemusters.com and @CMusters on Twitter.