Perfectionism & Writing [& OCD Too]

messyYou’d think being a perfectionist would be beneficial for an artist, but I really don’t think that’s true.

(Neither, apparently, does Google: search “artists are perfectionists” and you’ll get the following:


For me, being a perfectionist means that writing a book can be a slow form of torture. You see, it takes a long time for a book to even begin to resemble perfection. You have to spend months, even years, sitting uncomfortably in the middle of a mess, working through sloppy drafts and chasing rabbit trails into very disorganized forests.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, it’s a continual lesson in learning to enjoy the process and not just the product. If I only enjoy the product, I will get to be happy about 24 hours out of every three years. This is a journey of embracing uncertainty, letting myself wait in the cold water till I begin to adjust.

And that’s the story of my life with OCD too. Heck, the story of my life, period.

I– a perfectionist, an OCD survivor– want pretty things in pretty boxes with pretty bows on top. I– an artist, an OCD survivor– know that’s not what life looks like. Life is full of doubt and wrong directions, wasted time and imperfect choices. Life is full of discomfort and years and years and years of tolerating discomfort … with the hope there is a pretty thing in a pretty box with a pretty bow at the end. But it is not guaranteed.

So, is art in general– or writing specifically– a difficult career choice for a perfectionist? Heck yes. But it’s fulfilling, worthwhile, hard, dirty, beautiful work– and it is helping me appreciate this fulfilling, worthwhile, hard, dirty, beautiful world.


Perfectionism Digs a Deep Hole

Exhibit A.


Exhibit B.

mm no

Exhibit C.


Exhibit D.


Exhibit E.

Runner crossing finish line

Achiever. That’s honestly my #2 strength after Learner via StrengthsFinder. But so often it doesn’t feel like a strength; it feels crippling.

Perfectionism is something I’ve battled my whole life. I didn’t just want an A on the test, I wanted the highest score in the class. I might get 100% but if someone else also got an extra credit point, I’d feel like I didn’t perform well.

Performer. My freedom from OCD has given me so much freedom in this area too. I’m learning that my worth isn’t based on my performance.

But it’s still a lie I all too often believe.

I’m a writer. But I can never measure up to my own standards for myself, and so I walk around defeated even when I’m living my dream.

I don’t have answers to this. I just needed to share. Thanks for listening.