Have you ever watched a child learning to walk? They get up on unsteady legs, take a few steps and plop fall flat on their butt only to get up and do it all over again; ceaselessly. I watched my niece do this for hours - in awe of her tenacity to do it her way.
I don’t know when it happens; only that it happens for some – falls, slips, missteps become the reason we don’t do something we’ve always wanted to do. Is it a character flaw? That’s too philosophical a conversation for a blog post but I had to overcome being a perfectionist to become good at what I do.
Having a copy editor rip apart story after story (it feels like that to a perfectionist even if the changes are minor) sort of cures you of that. Ok, once, and I remember this like it was yesterday, I fought for the word halted vs. stopped. What can I say? I was an idyllic 20-something who had nothing better to do with 90 minutes of time. I wouldn’t change the experience. It made me a better reporter, writer (in general), and I believe, editor and person.
After nearly a quarter of a century doing what I love, I felt the perfectionist flaw rising up again as I was getting ready to launch Tabula Rasa – White Paper, Red Pen LLC. The website was in my que for months – repeatedly tweaked. There couldn’t be any mistakes; that would be embarrassing. A custom writing services business with errors in its copy. I couldn’t think of anything more horrifying.
As a recovering perfectionist, that fear prevented me from moving forward for a long time. And opened the door to other fears: suppose Kevin Costner’s wrong? Suppose you build it and no one comes? The fear is real, for millions of would-be small business owners, but to a perfectionist it is paralyzing.
If you’re feeling like that now, or ever have, watch a child learning to walk or a puppy climb stairs. That’s the advice I would give my younger self. It might not seem like much but it’s a great reminder of how much we’ve already accomplished after repeatedly falling.