Perfect Is The Enemy of Done
One of the things you have to do as a creative person is to understand your creative process.
What shuts down your creative flow?
What opens the spigot?
How can you stop driving yourself crazy and get the words, the paint, the clay, the music, the building, the art out of you?
The other day I heard from a fellow writer who has been working on his first novel for several years now.
“My motivation rises and takes a dive, up and down. I’ll need to get serious and believing more that it can be good enough for me to settle for a finish line to go to an editor,” he wrote to me.
Personally, I suffered an 16-year drought between my first published book in 1997 and my second book, What Is Healing? Awaken Your Intuitive Power for Health and Happiness.
When it finally got published, that second book became the ultimate birthday gift from the angels. What Is Healing? came out on my birthday, March 25, 2013. Every time I see it, I see my birthdate printed on the back cover and recognize the divine gift that it actually was.
The week before it got published, I had struggled for hours and hours every day with Lightning Source, the printer.
They lost the files.
I spent agonizing late nights at Office Depot faxing in forms, only to have to wait when the lady in charge had to take time out for her sick son.
Nothing seemed possible, the whole process got stuck like an elephant in the mouth of a cobra until lo and behold my birthday rolled around and there it appeared, forever imprinted March 25, possibly my best birthday present ever.
You just can’t rush angels.
They know when miracles need to appear.
When I was 10 years old, somehow I heard about this idea of figuring out what you’re supposed to do when you grow up.
I was so bothered and worried and tense and upset, thinking at age 10 that I might waste the life ahead of me, that I stayed up all night to figure this thing out – to get clear on what it is I’m supposed to do with myself.
Writing, I decided as the sun finally came up.
All I have ever really wanted to do – deep down at the soul level I’m talking about – is write books.
Oh yes, there are other soul longings – healing others, teaching yoga – but none that have driven me as insane as the call to write.
When you know at the soul level with total and complete conviction that what you are here to do is write books and you can’t get one out of you the pain is unspeakable.
You just don’t feel right no matter whatever else you manage to accomplish.
Dare I say it, you feel like there’s something seriously wrong with you.
Maybe you feel even a little crazed.
You feel like you are letting God down somehow, that you received your guidance about what it is you’re supposed to do and now you’re not holding up your end of the gift of your life.
I remember once I was visiting another place – not sure I can remember where, someplace in the Midwest I think – when a clairvoyant person saw a host of pink angels all around me.
“What do they want?” I asked in a panic, feeling a bit weird as no one else had pink angels floating in their energy field that day apparently.
It wasn’t like I had paid for a psychic reading.
I was just out and about and a clairvoyant saw my angels and decided it must be time to talk to me about them.
“They want you to write from your heart,” the clairvoyant said.
“Well too bad,” I replied.
“I’m not going to!”
I am nothing if not stubborn, this has universally been agreed upon.
You may pretty this up as tenacious but the true word is bull fart stubborn.
Nobody can make me do anything if I’m not ready.
Deep down, of course, I knew that the angels were right and that I, not the angels, was the one with the problem.
Fortunately, in 2005 I started running this stupid internet radio show.
The whole thing was so stressful – being live, having to come up with new topics, writing a 10-page script every week, having guests forget to show up and there I was with my cohost having to fill up dead air space for an hour – that I took up making jewelry.
A client at the time took pity on me and showed me how to bead.
“Beading or alcohol,” I joked, knowing that I needed the strongest self medication.
I beaded so compulsively I can’t even guess how much money I spent on the finest healing gemstones.
Every friend I had – close, estranged, nearby or afar – became the recipient of a handmade necklace or earrings or both, each gift worth at least $100.
“Oh, another original handmade healing gemstone necklace again, ho hum,” I think my friends would say.
My favorite thing would be to take my beads on my porch on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and sit down and make necklace after earring for hours on end.
Recognizing that my hobby had grown way past expensive, I decided to take up knitting, thinking I might spend a little less money.
But every original handmade shawl I knit would usually cost over $150.
I was not content to knit with just one yarn – usually every shawl had five to seven yarns knit together – ribbon yarns, ladder yarns and the finest wools with every blend of gorgeous color so as to make the most fabulous weaves and fringes.
Something inside of me must have been prompting me to save money by writing, which only required me and my MacBook Air laptop.
Soon enough all my friends draped themselves with original handmade gorgeous shawls and I myself had a laundry basket full in every imaginable hue.
Looking back I could see I have a compulsion for creativity.
I can’t stop myself from creating something.
So it was lucky for me that a friend, now deceased, told me about the great writing coach Tom Bird (read about his priceless work at www.tombird.com), the best therapist in the world for those authors who have a book stuck inside of us.
“Catherine, this is right up your alley,” I’ll never forget my friend saying to me.
“It’s intuitive writing.”
Thankfully, the Tom Bird Method allowed me to get unstuck and I highly recommend all agonized, crazed, internally knotted up and self-medicating writers attend at least one Tom Bird workshop. I myself have attended six – four in-person workshops and two remote workshops.
Which brings me back to this idea that perfect is the enemy of done.
Last week, I reread the final published version of my sixth book, What Is Social Media Today: Get Ready to Win the Game of Social Media.
I felt two primary emotions: aghast and delight.
Aghast as in, “Oh my God, how many times have I read this damn book and I still couldn’t see all these errors.”
And delight as in, “I LOVE this, what a great story, I can’t wait to read this again.”
Even my mother, who believe me is never a fawning fan but always the one who points out the long-term implications of my multitudinous poor choices, wrote in an email, “Just read it!!! IMHO it is GR8.”
So how does one get over this disease of aiming for perfection?
Here’s my current reflections.
I can simply describe my process and hope and pray that somehow something will come across if you too are any kind of suffering artist.
When I wake up early in the morning, that’s a signal to me it’s time to write.
By early I’m talking 4, 4:30, 5 a.m.
Then I trundle down to my office, get my juiced-up laptop and go back to bed.
Then I mess around on the internet, going through the motions of getting things done in my business (whatever that means, usually attending to social media, replying to emails, checking bills on my bank account or other mindless activities).
Finally in an actually prayerful manner I tune in to whatever guidance wants me to write about.
Sometimes I get a title, other times it’s just a topic.
I allow myself to receive the message, trusting that if I write that morning that somebody somewhere must apparently need what it is I am banging on about.
In other words, I accept that I don’t have to be perfect.
I’m just the messenger – that winged individual flying across your inner space to deliver a thought, an inspiration, an insight, a vision.
And what I have to say doesn’t have to be perfect.
If I bang you over the head apparently that must mean that’s the way you need this message delivered. Whop!
If I try to be subtle you must need to connect the gossamer threads yourself.
In other words, I pray about it, ergo I trust.
I admit I don’t have to know even anything.
I just have to allow whatever needs to be said to flow through me and then know that somehow that message will get delivered to the person or people collectively somewhere on this great beautiful planet of ours by grace in perfect timing.
Several years ago, when I was writing Unlimited Energy Now, my third book, the internal struggle from writing was so intense I developed migraines so severe I thought I was going to vomit.
If I was on my laptop longer than 15 minutes, the migraines would come up and I would rush to the toilet bowl, hanging over the side waiting for relief.
“It doesn’t matter whether I want to write or not, I can’t,” I concluded.
Finally, I recognized that for me to write at all – not necessarily even well, just doing it – I need to keep myself as relaxed as possible.
These are not part of my life, they are the life that makes my writing possible.
And finally developing the habit of recognizing when those pink angels of mine are tapping me on the shoulders and telling me to wake up and start taking dictation.
I joyfully release (at least for now) any attempt to put on the false cloak of perfection and humbly admit and embrace my rainbow-colored flaws, allowing this and other messages to flow through me to you in whatever manner divine guidance deems fit.
Says me in my jammies, hair messed from my pillow, squinting through my glasses while my black and white cocker spaniel puppy lying next to me wakes herself up by scratching her ears.
Good morning and welcome to imperfection.