Tag Archive for: Perfectionist

Too Perfect

Kimberly Jayne

love journals. I request them for birthdays and other gift-giving opportunities
where I can actually tell people what they can buy me. They’re going to buy me
something, so it may as well be what I want, right? Journals are beautiful
inside and out, and I must have them. Plus, I have never found a reason to
re-gift a journal. Ever. Because that would be wrong. 

here’s the problem. You knew there would be one, right? Yes, there’s a problem.
It’s the girdle of perfection that squeezes the daring out of me. See, my
beloved journals are perfect. I adore them. I fondle their smooth edges and
bindings and dream of the worthy thoughts and ideas that only I can pour
inside. I covet them like Scrooge covets his bags of gold, all for myself. The
one thing I don’t do is write in them. They are simply too perfect. 

currently have a collection of a dozen beautiful journals that now serve only
to taunt me because they’re gathering dust and slowly disintegrating, as all
things do with the passage of time, without the glory of someone’s pen (mine)
scrawling and jotting and doodling and masterpiecing across their pages. I
know. This could be the very definition of sad. *Sheds pitiful writer’s tears.*

obviously, this is a bit of a conundrum because the reason I ask for journals
in the first place is precisely because they’re beautiful, and I really do want
to write in them. One would be perfect for recounting my life so my children
would actually learn who I am after I’m dead. One would be perfect for writing my
innermost thoughts about men and relationships and sex—but, er, what if someone
finds it after I’m dead? And still another without lines would be perfect for
drawing and sketching and arting, except that I’m no Michelangelo. I’m not even
a Southpark Trey Parker. And there I’d be, embarrassing my children from the
grave. *Pauses. Considers the merits of this one.*

have intended to change this situation for a long time, coaxing and finagling,
and bribing myself into writing something in each journal. So far, I
have inscribed my name. I do have nice handwriting. Meanwhile, I keep adding
more journals. Every time I walk into a book store, I walk out with a perfect,
hoardworthy journal that remains as I received it: empty and deprived.

So I
mentioned this little “problem” to some writer friends at a retreat last
weekend. One of them is not only a writer and a longtime friend but a life and
creativity coach. A wise and delightful woman, she immediately identified a
solution. Wabi-sabi.

represents Japanese aesthetics and a world view centered on the acceptance of
transience and imperfection. A concept derived from Buddhism, the aesthetic is
described as beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Like my
journals. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry,
roughness, and the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. In
other words, Wabi-sabi says the beauty of an object is in its flaws. In a
pretty but cracked vase, wabi-sabi is the flaw where the gift of light pours
in. And whose broken heart isn’t the personification of wabi-sabi?

short, wabi-sabi struck me right between the brain lobes, creating a fissure in
my thinking—and how very wabi-sabi that there the light shined in. It was so
simple. So illuminating. So right in front of me all along. By writing in my
journals, I’m not sullying their pages with my existential drivel. I’m not
destroying the beauty and perfection of their craftsmanship. I’m not wasting
the trees that gave their lives to be tattooed by my brain matter. In fact, I’m
making my journals more beautiful, more valuable, more worthwhile—if to no one
else but me. And any family that survives me. 

To make sure I won’t slide back into [absurd] old habits, I invited two of my nanababies to color on the first few pages. And guess what? The journals have become even more precious to me and, far from perfect, I’m free to fill them up with abandon—and writer stuff.

about you? What can wabi-sabi do for you? How can it break the girdle of
perfection that binds you? Can it free you, as it has freed me?
Kimberly Jayne is the author of the dark fantasy series
Demonesse: Avarus and the hilarious romantic comedy Take My Husband, Please. She has been making up stories since she was five, when she scribbled on her grandfather’s notepads her first tall tale about pigs flying. Yes, she started that shtick. Since then, she’s written just about everything and for various websites and clients, including humor features for Playgirl Magazine. She also performed her work in the 2011 Listen to Your Mother Show in Austin, Texas. Visit her at ReadKimberly.com.  

Getting It Together

“Someday I’ll get it all together,”
my husband mutters morosely as he struggles with something that slipped through
the cracks in his ultra-busy life. I’ve done the same myself many times. We’re
all juggling so many plates that it’s no wonder when one of them crashes to the
floor or is rescued from that fate only by a quick diving grab.
About a year ago, however, I
promised myself that I’d stop using that term “getting it all together,”
because I know—we all do, actually—that no one ever gets it all
together. In fact, it’s just a nice camouflaged way of saying, “Someday I’ll be
perfect.” And we wouldn’t say that out loud anywhere anyone else could hear us,
would we?
Of course, we wouldn’t, but every
time we say, “I’m going to get it all together,” we are pushing ourselves into
that perfectionist role. I bring this up because it’s something with which I’ve
struggled all my life. I aim for competence, wanting to be the best I possibly
can, the top of the class, in all areas of my life. But none of us can be the
top of the class in everything.
Over the years, I’ve had to realize
that I’m never going to win the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval—certainly
not for my housekeeping! As I’ve become more involved in the world of writing
novels for trade houses who want at least one novel a year, I’ve just given up
on the house. And very early in my life, I came to grips with the fact that I
will never be a fashionably-dressed, perfectly-made-up, stylish woman. I make
up for these failings in many other areas. But like many of us, I suspect, I
judge myself against the best in each area of my life. Against the woman who’s
cold to her family and has no friends, I hold up not my loving family and
friends but my messy home against her spotless, department-store-window house.
Against the woman who’s superficial and shallow, I hold up not my lifetime
pursuit of learning or my passionate concern with issues but my bare face and
comfortable shoes against her fashionista appearance.
I know I’m not the only one who does
this comparison of someone else’s strong point against my weak point. I suspect
it’s actually pretty common. But I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to do
this to myself—and part of overcoming it is discarding the concept of “getting
it all together.” Even those who seem on the surface to have it all together,
don’t. We’ve seen that again and again—the wealthy, famous, beautiful people
who seem on top of everything yet go plunging down the slopes, the woman (or
man) we always admired because she seemed to have everything in her life under
such good control, only to find she was flailing every day behind her
impeccable façade. Yet still, we put this burden of “getting it all together”
on our shoulders—and wonder why we walk slumped over.
So here and now, I’ll admit that I
don’t have it all together, nor am I probably ever going to have it all
together. I have too many areas where I’m simply not really together at all or only
partly together, on Wednesdays and Sundays. But I do have a few areas of
strength where I’m really at the top of my game—and I think those are where I’m
going to focus my energy now instead of trying to become the fashionista or
uber-hausfrau that I’m not. So, look out, world. Hear me roar! Just don’t look
at the shoes, please.

From the Mind of a Guilt-Ridden Perfectionist

by Maggie Barbieri

Hello, it’s me again. You get me two days in a row. Why? Because a guest blogger is a no-show, undoubtedly felled by an over-packed schedule and a failure to keep everything he or she had planned to do in a neat little row in his or her mind. I can totally understand. Remember, I’m the girl who still uses a paper planner and writes down EVERY SINGLE TASK that needs to be tackled in a given day. Some days, I cross everything off the list. Others, I may cross one thing off and leave a trail of broken, self-imposed promises on the page, my neat little handwritten notes a sad reminder of what I didn’t accomplish.

But back to memory. I pride myself on having a good one, although sometimes, I’m human, just like everyone else. (My husband and kids will guffaw mightily if they read this. They know for a fact that I’m human.) Curiously, I can go to the grocery store three times a week and always fail to come home with two products that we use in great quantity here: toilet paper and peanut butter. Despite my best efforts, I usually get everything else I’ve gone into the store for, and forget these two crucial items. The result? I end up buying them at the local mom and pop and spending at least triple what they would cost at the store. It’s like I have a mental block against toilet paper and peanut butter, two items that have never done me wrong. My lack of attention to purchasing them is confounding.

Writing a mystery series—and I’m knee deep in book 7 as I write this post—requires a good memory as well as some handwritten notes. For me, I have a host of characters who live in my head—Alison, Crawford, Max, and Fred, predominantly—but others who make an appearance very now and again and require my attention so that they can tell me their back story and let me know how they would react to a given situation. For instance, I have a kid right now in the new book, the name of whom Alison can’t remember. His name? Alex. Why? Because that’s what his great-grandfather’s name was, the great-grandfather who came to this country from Russia with just the clothes on his back and currency that converted to three dollars. Is this germane to the story? No. But Alex told me his backstory and I need to be attentive to that. Now, if Alex happens to reappear in a future book, I’d like to say that I will remember this backstory verbatim, but there is a slim chance that great-grandfather will have come to this country from Poland with the clothes on his back and currency that converted to ten dollars. Why? Because my brain is crammed. With ideas, with characters, with plots, with the reminder that I need to buy peanut butter and toilet paper the next time I go to Shoprite.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s simple: sometimes I get messages from people who have spotted an inconsistency in one of my books. In an earlier book, someone may have had black hair, and in a subsequent book, it’s a shade lighter. All I can say is that I do my darnedest, really I do, to make sure that these types of inconsistencies don’t happen. Fellow blogger Susan McBride told me that a famous author—who shall remain nameless—once wrote an essay about this very issue. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, that he does his best, but his goal is to tell a good story. So what that character A had a brother in book 1 and then three sisters and no brother in Book 6? It doesn’t matter to famous author. He wants you to enjoy his books for their story, not specifically for the continuity.

I’m not there yet, in terms of attitude. I’m still trying really hard to make everything as consistent as it can be in every book I write, but I, like other authors, make mistakes, and sometimes, forget things. (See: peanut butter and toilet paper.) I’m a perfectionist, really I am (insert husband and kids guffawing) so it pains me to think that I’ve missed something. All this to say that we’re all doing our best to make sure every t is crossed and every i is dotted and that everyone has the same number of siblings and the same color hair every time we publish a new book.

And if you see me around town, do me a favor? Remind me to buy toilet paper and peanut butter, please?

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