Perfectionism

I have said that I am perfectionist about my writing to avoid adding more noise to the internet. But the other day I realized that for me the “signal vs noise” argument is just a comforting deception.

Because:

  1. Nobody cares about my signal.

    My blog’s daily readership is sometimes in the single digits. My writing here is only ostensibly public.

  2. Nobody cares about my noise.

    There’s so much noise already that adding a bit more won’t do any harm. It’s like peeing in the ocean.

In short, being a perfectionist about my writing is a procrastination tactic.

When I realized this I was shocked. Chiefly because I already knew this, but had somehow persuaded myself that it wasn’t true.

Whatever arguments you have in favour of your perfectionism will be equally flimsy. And it won’t take much to topple them. You only have to want to look. But looking isn’t easy.

Seeing through my own fog is a sign of… something, surely. I’d like to say it’s maturity. But that implies there is a going that takes you to a place, whereas I’m pretty sure there’s only the going.

There won’t be a time when I’ve matured, when the fog lifts, when there is no more looking to do. No time when the lure of perfection has lost its lustre.

The real achievement, and one we can all aspire to every day, in every moment, is to be present to what is happening. The fog is what happens when you bring the past or future to bear upon the now.

Your past successes are as paralysing as your past failures. Your hopes about the future are as useless as your fears when it comes to the “pleasurable toil of writing”1. And if my hunch is right – that all there is going – then the only direction is onward.

I am making a point of publishing this “discovery”, in case I mentally misplace it again and happen to search for “Is perfectionism a form of procrastination?”

Yes. The answer is yes.

Get on with it already.

  1. “The only sensible ends of literature are, first, the pleasurable toil of writing, secondly, the gratification of one’s family and friends, and lastly the solid cash.”
    —Nathaniel Hawthorne, in a letter to Horatio Bridge, 1851, quoted in Thomas Mitchell’s Hawthorne’s Fuller Mystery

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