“If I waited for perfection, I would never write.” Margaret Atwood
“Perfection” – what a pesky word! How earnestly we all yearn to turn out prose or poetry that is “flawless” and without “blemish or defect,” as my handy Century Dictionary puts it. And how easily, in one way or another, perfection ensnares us as we write and rewrite endlessly, hoping to make our work better when we often muddy its meaning or squeeze the juice out of it by overthinking. I’ve slipped across the border of this anxious territory and I’m sure you have, too.
It’s a trap –let’s avoid it! In Birthing the Elephant, my action guide for female entrepreneurs, a mantra emerged from my interviews that’s helped me and might help you: “Don’t get it perfect, just get it going.” Over and over the women I spoke to talked about how they gathered as much information and as many resources as they could and then simply dove into the marketplace, learning and adjusting as they went along.
As one woman put it, she decided that if there was something she needed to succeed, “I’d figure it out or find it out.” Or as my good friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert says, “Ready, fire, aim.”*
Instead of aiming for perfection when it comes to our creative work, which can be immobilizing, why not stay more fluid? Why not adopt the relaxed, intrepid attitude of aspiring entrepreneurs: “Don’t get it perfect, just get it going.”
In my own work, I’m finding that this strategy has several advantages: You keep moving, pushing forward. You shake off mistakes, and vow to do better next time without getting all angsty about them. You give up an inhibiting focus on outcome by aiming for productivity and letting the results take care of themselves. And finally, you get new ideas: Since you’re not contracted and anxious about perfection, new ways to improve and fine-tune seem to spring up naturally and carry you further down the road toward, not perfection, but excellence.
OK, here’s our plan: Don’t get it perfect, just get it going. Dive in, make mistakes, get messy, use feedback as fuel, fine-tune, and keep going. Write on!
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* Check out Dr. Gilbert’s successhotlinepodcast.com for more peak performance tips.