On Having to Do Everything Well Right Away

If you are a creative person, I highly recommend Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  Even if you’re not, there are lessons in there for everyone.  One of the most helpful for me is her chapter on “Shitty First Drafts” (her language, not mine).  She posits that you just have to get something down on the page; you have to be OK with it being crappy at first and keep working with it.

As a perfectionistic, procrastinating oldest child, I don’t really know what this thing you call a “second draft” is.  Working at the last minute takes the pressure off a perfectionist because you have an excuse if it’s not perfect.  I had to be good at something from the first or second try or it held no interest for me.  If I couldn’t win something, at least every few rounds, I grew sullen.  No matter how much positive reinforcement I got, if I wasn’t the best or at least a contender for the best, my world crumbled.  This dynamic was not helped by the fact that I was pretty good at most things and a quick learner.  And, of course, I ran away from things I didn’t master speedily.

Thankfully, I have grown up, experienced some failures, and started to see myself much more gracefully and realistically.  I know my worth is not dependent on my achievements or on being better than other people.  I can lose a game and still have fun (most of the time, ha).  However, this mindset still plagues me in subtle but pervasive ways.  How many things have I not started because I wasn’t sure how they would turn out?  Oh, hundreds: inventions, songs, hobbies, writings, relationships…I chalk it up to busyness or laziness, but really it’s fear.

I don’t want fear to be my decision-maker.  Who’s with me?  Let’s get something down on the page.