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Letting Go of Perfect

Updated: May 29, 2020

Just got back from the National Speaker’s Association conference #INFLUENCE19. My brain is jam-packed, my soul is energized, and my heart is full. My feet also hurt like hell, thanks to 25K steps per day in the enormous Gaylord Rockies Resort property. It’s all good.

This year I didn’t take as many notes as I have at past conferences. Instead, I mostly listened. When I wrote something down, it was because I needed that anchor. I wanted to be able to read and hear that message again.

One of those precious takeaways was to WRITE MORE. Get out of my own way and get it done. The third grade me made writing fun and easy. That me filled a 50 page blank journal with the story of The Sad Flower. In fourth grade, I sent a string of random short observational essays (which would now be called blogs) to Shaun Cassidy. Yes, the singer. As a mid-ranking member of Shaun's fan club, I felt it important to connect with him on a deep level.

Somewhere over the next 41 years I got to figuring that writing is an art of perfection. My friends at NSA reminded me that it’s not. It’s an art of expression. Getting the words and the flow and the grammar just right isn’t as important as getting it out of me and into the world.

Particularly before this conference, I was struggling with enormous writer's block. My thoughts, insights, and stories were imprisoned in my head. They didn't start out that way. They arrived feeling free and full of light. They danced and sang, “See us! Write this!”

I saw them as they swirled. “Let’s play! Let us out! Write this!!” they implored.

Then... all the other voices, fears, and busy excuses of life found their way into the space. I got overwhelmed and blocked. The stories that wanted to be written shrank back into their cell.

To all my unwritten words, and in the spirit of the Ho'oponopono: I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

The same sentiment goes out in advance to all my writerly friends who will cringe at the typos and errors I may not catch. There could be run-on sentences, missing or misused punctuation, and mixed voice. There will most certainly be (gasp!) many more unclear antecedents, since according to Grammarly, that's a huge problem for me.

Still, I want to write more. I need to write more. To do that, I need to let go of perfection.

It's also not a perfect idea to use the words of another writer, but I'd be doing you and me a disservice if I didn't share these apropos and genius words:

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.” ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Maybe you're not a writer, and there's something else where perfectionism has you feeling cramped. Consider this your "get out of jail free" card. Clear the head trash. Get out there. Dare to be human. Share your spark.


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