on perfectionism

If you’ve read my latest book, The Things We Need to Say (it’s just 99p right now so if you haven’t now is as good a time as any – hashtag shameless self-promtion!), you’ll know that it’s about a couple, Fran and Will, who have spent their marriage trying to live the perfect life, according to a plan, and discover the hard way that perfection isn’t possible.

I used to be like Fran and Will.

I think we’ve all been there to some extent. I think we’ve all lived with the fear that what we are doing isn’t good enough, that everyone else is doing it better than us, that whatever we want to release into the world isn’t perfect yet so we have to hide it away and not tell anyone. In other words all of us have, at one time or another, carried on playing small because we’re scared we’re not good enough to play big.

I used to push myself to the point of exhaustion to get everything right, to stick to my five year plan, to be as good as only I wanted me to be (because that’s the thing – the only people who push us to be perfect are ourselves, nobody else minds). I’ve turned down promotions because I thought I wouldn’t be good enough, I put off doing something I’d dreamed of for years because I didn’t think it was the right time to be perfect (I opened that yoga studio in the end – it wasn’t the right time, and it wasn’t perfect, but it was awesome).

Writing my first book taught me a valuable lesson in perfectionism.

I finished the first draft of The Many Colours of Us in the summer of 2016. I didn’t think it was good enough. I spent all summer reading it over and over again and moving commas around. It didn’t really matter what I did at that stage, I was convinced it would never be good enough. If I’m honest with myself that book would still be sitting on my hard drive if it hadn’t been for a writer friend, who read the first three chapters, telling me that it didn’t much matter if it was perfect or not if I wasn’t going to let anyone read it.

And so I sent my very imperfect book out into the world. It (eventually) got picked up by an agent and a publisher. It wasn’t perfect (of course) but that didn’t matter. People in the industry saw it’s potential and helped me make it better. If I’m honest, I still don’t think that book is perfect – but it sold 30,000 copies so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

The moral of the story is…

Nothing is ever perfect, nobody has any idea what they’re doing and every single one of us is winging it, every day. It takes a team of agents, editors, copy editors and proofreaders to make a book, just as it took at team to run a yoga studio. Nobody is expecting you to do by yourself – but if you don’t get your stuff out there long before it’s perfect, how will anyone know that it exists?

I’m going to finish with this quote from one of the reviews for The Things We Need to Say…

This book is a cautionary tale to remind us what happens when people become so entrenched in perfecting and achieving their goals that they lose sight of themselves and everyone/everything around them. Been there, done that, bought that t-shirt.

Like I say, I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there – but I for one think it’s time we threw away that particular t-shirt

Striving and achieving and doing the best you can do are all well and good, but if they stop you seeing the bigger picture and stop you doing what makes you happy because you don’t think you’re good enough then what is the point?

Posted in Blog.

4 Comments

  1. I agree that hat trying to be perfect is a never ending game of chase. Sometimes we have to stop at – good enough.

  2. I love that thought, it doesn’t matter if it’s imperfect if you’re not going to let anyone see it. So true. We need to get our stuff out there but hopefully to a supportive rather than critical audience.

  3. I love this post! Currently staring at the 9th draft of my book which doesn’t feel perfect but it still lights me up inside. Your blog mentions proof reading – when will you be starting this?

  4. Hey Lucy. Once I’ve moved house in October I’ll open up proofreading slots. Watch this space xx

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