Perfection (Summer Writing Group, Week 11)

I’m a terrible perfectionist.* The worst kind. I find the desire for perfection so great and the prospect of perfection so distant that I seize up and end up feeling lazy. Then I panic. My perfectionism causes all sorts of problems for my writing, but it can help as well. My attention to detail makes me a better editor and proofreader, for instance. (And here’s where I cross my fingers that I haven’t left any typos in this post.) But to really make progress in my writing, I have to fool myself out of my perfectionistic tendencies and only allow them space at certain times in the writing process.

Does perfectionism play a role in your writing? Is it a help? A hindrance? A monster you need to tame? What are your strategies for handling and using perfectionism? If you don’t tend toward perfectionism, what benefits do you gain? Would perfectionism be useful at all?

*I got to thinking about this topic because of a post at Study Hacks this week.

__________________________________________________

As usual, please check in by noon Monday, but feel free to continue the conversation beyond then. Check in format: 1) Goals, 2) Accomplished, 3) Analysis, 4) Goals for next week, 5) optional Next check in date, if you’ll miss a week or two or three.

Here you go:

Amstr [complete dissertation draft]: 1) type of Ch. 3 revisions and fix the 9 things left, 2) draft half of Ch. 1 (cutting and pasting lots), 3) do research on three areas of Ch. 1, 4) work at work time + 2 evenings
Becky
[journal article]: ?
Contingent Cassandra
[full draft of J article by 8/24; make progress on P projects; continue freelance work]: Continue progress on the J article; prepare and give P project presentation; plan and conduct a day of P-project archival research (and network with people at the presentation); do some preliminary research/writing for the next 2 freelance pieces (but concentrate mainly on J, P, and household/financial projects). (next check-in 8/3)
Daisy
[finish thesis]: make a list of everything that each paper still needs, and pick something every day and do it. And up the 2 hours of writing to 4.
DEH
[finish and submit MMP and article]: print out, proofread and polish the companion-essay, and submit it. Return to the MMP, see where I am with it, make a plan, and carry out some part of that plan. Spend at least 2 hours on the translation project.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell
[book chapter proposal; writing 4 days/week]: Write an hour and a half four days a week.
emmawriting
[EOCP full draft sent to collaborator, MC paper results section done, MUL data collected, MC5 fully prepped]: EOCP: Outline Discussion; Continue to review articles, & write notecards or brief summaries to put into Intro draft; write some draft sections of Intro, at least 1 paragraph. MCP: Finish draft writeup of MC3, figure out problem. Analyze MC 4
GEW [short draft of new chapter (10 pages)]: Finish reading the article.
humming42
[complete book MS]: work at least a half hour each day on the manuscript and on one of the September projects.
JaneB
[chip away at writing backlog]: write a conference abstract and a four page Application For Workshop Session (next check-in 7/27 or 8/3)
jenk
[good draft of main project; figures + results of side project]: ? 2/3 of Figures + captions. More work on the results. (Reminder to self to have something to show the adviser at the beginning of next week.)
Kirstin
[rough draft of journal article]: ? Finish WYJA week 3, start week 4
luolin88
[finish and submit journal article; submit 2nd ms to new journal]: 1/2 hour editing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Matilda
[2 of 4: paper, 3 presentations]: new plan to November and a few years ahead/an article proposal
NWGirl
[revise 2 papers for publication]: Submit article #1 to selected journal. Work on structure for article #2. And start on class prep.
rented life
[2 solid book chapters]: Continue with 10 min a day of writing.
Sapience
[complete diss; plan for one project for fall]: finish this round of proofreading in preparation for sending the whole thing off to someone else for a good look (next check-in 7/27).
tracynicolerose
[draft of TS and analysis for BE]: Look at the data for the TS findings; read for the LM paper
Trapped in Canadia
[2 diss. chapters; 1 turned into edited book ch.]: ???

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40 thoughts on “Perfection (Summer Writing Group, Week 11)

  1. I suffer from the same type of perfectionism as you, amstr, except that I’m not always a good editor, since I procrastinate on that too, run out of time, and end up rushing.

    A big part of my goal this week is to stop trying for the perfect organization so that I can finish the paper. All the cutting and pasting and deleting I’ve been doing was necessary, and it helped to figure out my focus, but there are other things that need work and I need to finish revising within a couple of weeks.

    Goal
    1/2 hour editing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

    Accomplished:
    30 minutes revising on Friday afternoon.

    Analysis:
    I was OBE in the form of fatigue and emotions which led to lots of escaping into reading or puzzles and insufficient energy to stop and get back on track..
    I did better on my clutter-clearing project, though I did not finish the list specific tasks I had set myself. It helped that I had various things sitting around that I needed to drop off at certain places, rather than a general “help, I’m drowning in stuff, do something!” imperative.

    I’m working on getting similarly specific with my writing plans.

    I managed to keep up with the physical exercise aspect of my self-care routine.

    The personal theme for next week is probably Making Plans + Following Through, starting with flight reservations for US Labor Day Weekend.

    Next Goal:
    Get my momentum back.
    Work on article Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for at least 30 minutes.
    Get past the (necessary) fiddling around with my draft so I can finish and submit before the fall semester.
    Go to bed early enough, which for me right now means 10:30pm.

  2. Hello,

    Goals: new plan to November and a few years ahead; an article proposal

    Accomplished: a new large plan done, an article proposal done.

    Analysis: well, my goals this week did not really include much work, thus I was able to do them all. I think but it was good for me to consider some near future. It motivated me.

    My new large plan is quite vague and has lots of blank needs to be filled, but it makes me understand when to do this and that, i.e., my project needs to be finished by when, what kind of administrative work I will need to do at my institution, I will be how old, my children’s schools, my parents will be how old, who help me a lot with my children’s care, and so on.

    An article proposal was a bit difficult, but constructing a proposal helped me to face things to do .

    Perfectionism. Another good discussion theme, amstr…
    I am a kind of perfectionist, though I don’t know whether I am a perfectionist in a strict sense. The problem is, wanting to be perfect often makes me avoid facing the reality, because I know there is huge amount of problems and works I need to do if I want to be perfect. But I know I am lazy and always try to avoid attacking problems, so things always become worse.

    The solution I have been trying to use is to say repeatedly to myself that I do not have to be perfect, but to be slightly better is enough, and if my writings slightly better than yesterday, I congratulate myself.

    • Congrats on getting everything done! It sounds like your self-talk is a good strategy–focusing on incremental improvements instead of always judging against the perfect goal.

    • The kind of perfectionist you say you are is the kind I am most of the time, I think. Perfection is not possible, so it’s hard to get started on a project that can’t possible meet that standard. I like the idea of “better is enough”.

      • Thanks, amstr and luolin88! Thinking ‘better is enough’ usually works reasonably well, especially I feel disappointed at my results. It is a kind of ‘see the blight side’ mental system, I think.

  3. goal: conference abstract and 4 page application
    accomplished: 4 page application completed, read and commented on by a colleague, edited and submitted. Abstract call read more carefully, which showed that the deadline is actually in September, so I get to ignore it for another couple of weeks.
    analysis: getting ANY kind of writing done whilst away on fieldwork is an accomplishment, even though we are staying in a nice self-catering place with wifi not camping/hostelling, so I’m happy. I’d be happier if I’d started work on the application earlier in the week, but never mind that, it’s in!
    goal for next week: Monday is a travelling day, Tuesday a running-around day, then my summer students start. So next week’s goal is relatively modest – to develop a plan for the rest of the summer for my writing. Lots to do, and time is sliding away…

    perfectionism: this has become less of a problem since I’ve been a faculty member – learning when to STOP working on things is a useful survival tool. I also try to abide by my supervisor’s advice: “don’t wait until you think your work is finished to submit it. Submit it when you think it’s OK and you’ll be much more open to taking on board criticism, comments and suggestions, because you already KNEW it needed another round of revising”.

  4. Well, what a timely post. I’m in the perfectionistic polishing phase on the companion-piece essay. The journal to which I intend to submit it has, shall we say, an idiosyncratic house style, and it’s driving me nuts figuring out what is allowed to be in-text citations and what has to be footnotes. In the process, I have noticed a couple of places where I think I’ve already said something, and I’m trying to remove the repetition. I should just follow Jane B’s supervisor’s advice and leave something to the journal editors/referees. But it’s so satisfying when I feel that I really have smoothed out all that stuff.

    Last goal: print out, proofread and polish the companion-essay, and submit it. Return to the MMP, see where I am with it, make a plan, and carry out some part of that plan. Spend at least 2 hours on the translation project.

    Accomplished: printed, proofread. Returned to MMP and got reacquainted. Spent one hour on the translation project.

    Analysis: See above on perfectionism; there was also a lot going on this week in terms of the summer teaching gig. Final field trip, end of the program, travel on two successive days, arriving home with jet lag; grading still to do because of the wireless problem I had in the UK (see recent post chez moi). I hoped to do more work on the plane but the guy in front of me had his seat reclining most of the time, which left me with insufficient space to get my laptop open and my hands on the keyboard without hunching my shoulders up to my ears and sticking my elbows into the aisle and my neighbor. So I’m taking what I did do as a win, and letting the rest go.

    New goal: Let’s say that I will really, truly, definitely finish the perfectionistic polishing and submit the motherloving companion piece already. All else is gravy.

    Sir John wants to take this week as vacation and see something of me. I’m a little panicky about all the THINGS to do in August. But since I’m usually up early, I can probably do at least a couple of hours of work in the mornings and then take the rest of the day to hang out with Sir John. Setting this week’s goal means that desperate anxiety now sets in about the translation, about which there are now 7 e-mail messages in my in-box, and I mean just since Thursday, not the older ones. Please tell me just to finish the companion-piece and deal with everything else after I have got that one thing submitted and thus really accompished.

  5. I’m not a perfectionist. At least not anymore. There was a time when everything in my life had to be “just so”—perfectly ordered and organized, everything completed. As an undergrad, I would clean my entire house before I could sit down and start writing. Now I’ve swung too far the other way: My house is in utter disarray, and I don’t always feel comfortable with the “good enough” standards I hold myself to as a scholar. But I feel like letting go of some of the compulsive perfectionism about my writing has been freeing. It took a long time to flip a switch that turned the committee in my head from a group of judgmental scowling scholars to a team that’s actually cheering me on. But I do have to routinely remind myself to ignore the inner critic.

    goal: Work at least a half hour each day on the manuscript and on one of the September projects.

    accomplished: Two days of working on the manuscript, thinking about but not working on the September projects.

    analysis: I need to get back to some habits of focusing on one thing at a time, not worrying about what isn’t done, and not being distracted by all of the things that could, and do, distract me. Maybe now that I’m settling back into being home, I can reestablish a better routine for the next several weeks until classes start. Dame Eleanor, I appreciated your blog post about easing back into life at home. I was reminded that it’s a gradual process. Even when you’ve only been away for a week, old routines have inevitably been disrupted.

    next goal: A chapter abstract was accepted, with a quick turn around. I told the editor I would work to submit the chapter by the end of August. So I will focus primarily on the August project, trying to working on the other projects. My goal will be 30 minutes on the August project + 30 minutes on the manuscript or one of the September projects each day. Same goal, with new project added.

    And as ever, I am grateful for you all being there and sharing your accomplishments and your snags. You inspire me to persevere and to shine.

    • Last week I focused on one thing at a time in hanging/cleaning some thing in our apartment. It was amazing how much more I got done, when I usually try to multi-task and having little to show for it at the end of the day. Amazing the difference that makes!

      • After years of trying to multitask, I realized that I do not have the brain to do it. I have to concentrate on one task at a time, and like rented life, I was amazed at first at how quickly things got done–especially those I dreaded.

        The other thing I do is make myself do something I dread first, then reward myself with something less onerous.

  6. Goal (from 2 weeks ago): 2/3 of Figures + captions. More work on the results. (Reminder to self to have something to show the adviser at the beginning of next week.)

    Accomplished: Got more done, but still not quite up to the goal.

    Analysis: I’ve had a cold for the last week and a half (hence the forgetting to check in last week), so thinking clearly for writing just hasn’t happened. I did get some work done on figures, which is good, but not as much as I’d hoped. On the bright side, I’ve been able to push forward with experiments in spite of being sick.

    Goal for next week: (same) 2/3 of Figures + captions. More work on the results.

    Perfectionism. It can certainly be a barrier to getting a sentence on a page. I want to have it fully formed before I start writing it, especially if I’m just starting out on a section. If I can manage to coach myself to just typing ideas and not worrying about sentence structure and flow, I typically get more done and am able to correct /improve the structure and flow later. I think this could also be a barrier to my figure making. I know exactly what I want several of them to look like…and it’s going to take a good bit of work to put together…so the tendency is to avoid the hard bits rather than face them. Fortunately, I’m at a point where I just want to be done with this PhD (and I don’t think I’m staying in academia), so I think my tendency towards perfectionism is waning (a little).

  7. I am the same kind of perfectionist, Amstr. It has often paralyzed me in the past. The only way I can progress past the paralysis is to trick my inner critic by working on an outline. Starting with single words or small phrases, I slowly fill it in with longer and longer phrases, then sentences and paragraphs. As long as I do not start by trying to write complete sentences, I can slip by the perfectionist, who waits with sharpened red pencil for the “real” draft. It is a weird way to work, but it works for me. Once I have a “paragraph” outline, the perfectionist can work without impeding progress. At that point, the perfectionist does help as an editor and proofreader as you point out.

    1. Goal: Write an hour and a half four days a week.

    2. Accomplished: yes.

    3. Analysis: it turns out the book editors for whom I was writing the chapter proposal are only interested in STEM disciplines, and so very definitely not interested in my proposal. Sigh. At least it is in good shape to shop elsewhere.

    I managed to keep working because I received some encouragement for plugging away at the dissertation from a colleague. I haven’t heard back from the teaching faculty I emailed, as they are away for the summer, but I am working on back-up plans if neither of them are interested.

    This next week is going to be pretty crazy at the day job, so I am scaling back slightly for next week’s goals.

    4. Write an hour a day four days a week.

    • Congrats on making your goal this week!

      I think that’s good advice — finding what works for you when dealing with your editor/perfectionist self.

      • Thank you! I fought working this way when I was younger–I was afraid it was too weird, but now I figure, too bad if it is–it works.

        I also have to fight the perfectionism of worrying about what people will think when they read my stuff. I force myself to write earlier than I think I should, and am slowly becoming comfortable with lacunae in arguments. It helps direct my reading, when I used to try to read everything published before putting one word on the page. That way lay madness!

  8. Great discussion. I wish someone would develop a twelve-step recovery program for perfectionism along the lines of AA. I am NWGirl and I am a recovering perfectionist.

    Perfectionism makes it difficult to get anything on paper/screen. What shows up seems to bear no relationship to what I had already written in my head. If I manage to conquer that fear, then I find myself endlessly printing, revising, changing, obsessing over every little detail. I have been stuck in that mode the last couple of weeks trying to finish article #1.

    I use planning as a way to practice perfectionism, too. If I make the perfect weekly plan, I’ll have the time I need to write. But then something happens to change the plan, or I spend so much time making the perfect plan that I run out of time to right. Or I make such an ambitious plan that there’s no way I can accomplish everything on my list — this summer’s research and writing plan is a prime example.

    Setting small goals, weekly goals, and just holding my nose and jumping in (or submitting something) has helped me conquer (somewhat) my perfectionist tendencies. Probably the most helpful “tool” for me is just recognizing when I’m sliding down that slippery slope of perfectionism.

    I’ve also tried to keep in my mind my own struggles with perfectionism when I’m working with my thesis students. I insist that they turn in drafts early and often as they work. In the beginning, I limit my comments though to “big picture” things like argument, sources, etc. I wish I could say that this has helped, but it’s had mixed results. And I’ve still have students who try to turn only the “final draft.”

    Goals for this week: Submit article #1 to selected journal. Work on structure for article #2. And start on class prep.

    Accomplished: Article #1 has been submitted. And I’ve started on class prep. I did not work on the structure for article #2.

    Analysis: It took longer than I expected (perfectionism, anyone?) to finish the formatting and the final proofread of article #1. I also had a couple of student-related problems come up that I needed to deal with.

    Next week’s goal: Structure for article#2.

    August is nearly here and that means fall preparation begins in earnest. While I would have liked to have finished the second article by this point, I’m happy that at I least have one in the pipeline.

  9. I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to writing (actually I’m just not a perfectionist). I am definitely a “good enough” writer. This doesn’t mean I don’t always strive to improve, I do but I also see it as a journey and recognize that whatever I’m writing is just another step in the path. It can still be hard to say “enough” on any particular piece but I generally find that moment when I know it is the best I can do for now.

    Goal for this week: Look at the data for the TS findings; read for the LM paper

    Accomplishment: I went back into the data for the TS findings. I solved a few problems and ran reports for the rest. I have not done any reading.

    Analysis: My online class is officially over and I finished grading all of the finals. That task pretty much took the wind out of my sails. I have to enter final grades today and then I’m taking this week off.

    Next Goal: Slog through the TS reports I ran; 2nd level memo on the BS data; read for the LM paper.

    Next Check-in Date: Since I’m taking a week off of everything work related and I’m headed to DC this weekend to pick up my son (he’s been on a 9 week bike ride across America), I won’t check in until the following week.

  10. Goal: make a list of everything that each paper still needs, and pick something every day and do it. And up the 2 hours of writing to 4.

    Accomplished: Mostly accomplished! Skipped a couple of days of writing for important things like saying goodbye to friends before the move but I’m ok with that.

    Analysis: The list is a lot less scary on paper than it was in my head so that is a very good feeling. Will meet supervisor this week with list in hand so she knows where things are going. Also bought a house in new town (yay, no camping in my new office!) and started on class prep for the fall.

    Goal: The last one worked well, so I’m sticking with it. Pick one thing off the list each day and aim for 4 hours…

    Perfectionsim is the bane of my existence. It leads to endless fiddling (at the finished stages) and complete paralysis at the beginning. I’m getting slightly better at dealing with the fiddling, but the paralysis at the start of something is still very difficult to overcome. “Just sit down and do it” seems to be the most effective approach, but takes a while to get over.
    Giving my supervisor intermediate drafts or sections of papers has made this fiddling problem much worse in the last couple of years – she is also an insane perfectionist and back and forth fiddling with two crazy people has often resulted in 400 words for an abstract turning into a month-long production, which has driven us both up the wall. So we don’t do that anymore. Same with posters – I just don’t do them anymore because they are like gas and will expand to fill every available molecule of space/time in your life… Knowing when to stop is a valuable skill!

    • see, I learned something about stopping, sometimes it is done too soon… next time spell perfectionism correctly…

      • I think it’s a perfect slip. I think I might just start calling it “perfectionsim”–it’s like a little “ridiculous” spell to make it less frightening.

  11. Goal: Continue with 10 min a day of writing.

    Accomplished: I wrote a great deal on Tuesday and Wednesday, a little on Thursday and then nothing.

    Analysis: I need to keep trying really. I’ve mentioned before that I’m healing from some other life events, and honestly, I made some significant progress this last week, personally. I’ll take that at the cost of my project, because it’s better for me in the long run. I will be going to the allergist for shots twice a week which means I will have a built in 20-25 minutes of time that I can spend trying to write. I don’t write as much as I would elsewhere–lots to look at in a waiting room–but I think it’s a better use of my time than reading the months old magazines. And in those instances, it’s going to be just about writing to practice writing, not about writing anything in particular, as I can’t be lugging everything to to waiting room!

    New Goal: 10 min a day of ‘writing activity’–writing, editing, reviewing previous drafts, etc.–, continued, except Thursday when I know I’ll be out of town.

    I once had a therapist tell me that people who suffer from depression also tend to be perfectionists. It makes sense. My perfectionism breeds an intense fear of failure–so if I try and it doesn’t work I get depressed or, more often than not, I don’t try because I want it so badly to be perfect. This isn’t just limited to writing really. I make grand plans for life and I want things to be so perfect–I mean, really who doesn’t, even if we all have different definitions of perfect? The end result is struggling to overcome when things go horribly different than how you planned (my theme for the last year) or struggling because you’re not really living, taking risks, trying, because of the perfectionism. It’s ironic I suppose, as I teach speech and talk all the time about speaking errors and overcoming that fear (or more likely, overcoming the mistake in the moment…I open with how I fell on my butt in front of my 8am class at my first ‘real’ teaching job. Wrong heels and wet floor do not make a perfect entrance.)

    I also suspect perfectionism is why I have a hard time finishing projects…if it’s never finished, then in a way it’s ok it’s not perfect. It’s still being worked on. Hence the ever growing box of “writing ideas/projects”.

      • I’m glad you can relate! I really slid backward on that this year–I took a few MAJOR leaps/risks in life because hey, I was always afraid…and it backfired. So I’m working on rebuilding my confidence in taking chances again.

      • It may not feel like it right now, rented life, but trying and missing the mark is far better than cowering in the corner. I find more regrets in things I didn’t have the courage to try than those I tried and failed.

  12. Goal: Finish week 3, start week 4

    Accomplished: none 😦

    Analysis: the baby shower, plus morning sickness, plus my kids have had a stomach thing that hasn’t been resolved in almost two weeks, plus recovering from two days of driving for the shower, has resulted in me doing nothing. In fact, I’m feeling pretty emotionally and physically depleted after dealing with near-constant nausea and food aversions for a month and a half now. I just didn’t have it in me to do anything on my article the last two weeks. (And I’m sorry I missed the last check-in, as I suspected we were too busy on our trip). I think I just need a good cry, and for this morning sickness to go away!

    Next Goal: finish week 3, start week 4

    (amstr, I plan to buy my own copy of the WYJA book so I can give you yours back, since clearly I’ll still need it after the summer is over! I like it anyway and would like my own copy.) 🙂

  13. 1. Finish article.

    2. Nope.

    3. Was packing and driving and unpacking. But I should finish it today!

    4. Read one article, one book intro, and one book chapter.

    Will come back soon on perfection! I’m doing the kid thing right now.

  14. Looking around my house right now, I think I could be called a closet perfectionist. It certainly doesn’t look like perfection is in my genes. I think the last 9 years of grad school and having kids has upped my capacity to extend grace to others and myself. And I have good reminders around me–GEW’s handle is one of them. I do have a lot of anti-perfectionist mantras–“a chapter has to be bad before it can be good,” “just write,” and for the whole dissertation, “D for Done.”

    My husband’s strategy for getting his thesis finished was to look up the worst ones his department had passed in the last five years, and just aim to be a little bit better than that. (Of course, he ended up with an award for best dissertation, but it at least got him over his fear.) The low bar has been helpful to me in figuring out how much I need to manage my perfectionism.

    Goals: 1) type of Ch. 3 revisions and fix the 9 things left, 2) draft half of Ch. 1 (cutting and pasting lots), 3) do research on three areas of Ch. 1, 4) work at work time + 2 evenings

    Accomplished: 1) typed the revisions. fixed about half the things. started reading for the other half. 2) got within 4K words of my goal for Ch. 1. 3) did at least some. 4) worked fairly well.

    Analysis: I was planning to get lots done this weekend. My husband is out of town, and I figured I’d have a lot of time in the evenings. But alas. Taking care of two children solo and taking over doing the dishes and laundry made me super exhausted. I did make a lot of progress over the week, though it seemed really disjointed. Somehow I didn’t get organized enough to know what I actually accomplished in some cases.

    I’ve successfully made the shift from drafting to researching to fill in the gaps. I’ve got lots of reading and a little writing to do. But I think the key going forward will be keeping up with all the detail management–bibliography entries, annotated bib, copies of articles in the right places.

    Goals for next week: 1) finish Ch. 3 changes, 2) make progress on Ch. 1 expansion (aim for halfway), 3) work well, incl. 2 evenings.

    This week should be a good one. Even though I had a babysitter cancel for two days, I was able to fill in with my mom and other sitters to end up with even more work hours than normal.

    • Amstr, thanks for sharing this about your husband. There were a few underachieving, uninspiring students in my doctoral program when I started, and they managed to finish their dissertations and find jobs. I reminded myself that if they could do it, surely I could too. And I’ve always felt a little dirty about that, as I wouldn’t want those people to know the backward way they inspired me. I’m relieved to know I’m not the only one who used this kind of strategy to get through.

  15. A quick reply, sad to not be replying in full especially to the great prompt. I am in grading jail due to a mis-written deadline and haven’t been able to work on writing. Goals were mostly met last week, but not all also due to sudden committee work (plagiarism cases, writing new paraphrasing exercises).

    GOals this week: Goal 1: grade papers in less than 30 minutes per paper; Goal 2: Be sure to do SOMETHING to push forward writing on Thursday and Friday after grade deadline.

    Perfectionism: I think that what we call perfectionism is just the negative side of the “intense persistence” coin. I really enjoyed a lot of what Study Hacks talks about but I think that the graph in the referenced entry is really wrong; especially since “ability” is based on a lifetime of intense learning, which can be driven by “perfectionism,” i.e. the desire to delve deeply into things and really understand them. However, I do know that “perfectionism” tends to lead to a lack of living up to your potential– if it prevents you from showing the world the fantastic ideas that have been the result of your intense thinking. The big problem is that it’s often really tough to differentiate between the kind of intense thinking / rewriting / researching that leads you to cool insights / excellent work, and the kind that is just spinning your wheels on something unimportant. I think that relatively-frequent breaks in writing, and assessing of what you’re doing right now and whether or not it’s really what you want to be doing, might be a way of allowing yourself to still be intense and yet also get that work out into the world. Also of course need to try to accept imperfection in your work and feel that it’s still something that will help others in some way…. here I try to accept a FlyLady mantra (to paraphrase badly), “even 15 minutes of cleaning blesses your family.” You may not be able prove something beyond the slightest whisper of a doubt, but it might still be a provocative, interesting idea that can inspire others…. so might want to publish it before it’s “done.” So hard though!

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