Perfection (or When You Half-Ass Half-Assing It)

Allow me a Shel Silverstein moment:

If you are a procrastinator, come in,
If you are a procrastinator, a nit-picker, a quibbler,
An over-achiever, an all-or-not-er, a good-better-best-er…
If you’re an avoider, come sit by my (perfect) fire
For we have some tasks we won’t be half-assin’.
Come in!
Come in!

Welcome! Come have a seat. I know you’re out there–those of us who walk that fine line between genius and ambivalence. Or, we think it’s a fine line. The truth is, though, there is a vast, grey-scale canyon between all or nothing. We just fail to see it. Or, if we do see it, we can’t seem to make our way down into it. Where are our pack mules and hiking shoes?

For me, perfectionism is tied into the Gordian Knot that is my mental health–the ropes of anxiety, depression, illness, catastrophizing, shame all twine themselves together in this beautiful, intricate mess. So, in my efforts to slowly untangle it all, I find myself staring down into that canyon where the balanced people live, wanting to join them.

I’m of the opinion that being a writer of any sort makes it more difficult to avoid the impulse of perfection.

I hate writing. I love having written.

-Dorothy Parker

When I was a technical writer, I figured it out, mostly out of necessity–wrangling with debilitating and chronic pain (in my case, migraines) forced me to shift priorities. My job wasn’t a career, my job didn’t define my identity, my job was simply a job. I decreased my level of investment, and found perspective. I could have conversations with my employers about quality versus quantity, and, more importantly, I finally accepted that my 75% was a hell of a lot better than most other’s 100%.

But enter today, and I’m struggling again. I’m writing academically and creatively, and I care deeply about both. I’m in a masters program where, to me, there are no throw away classes. I’m not taking classes I hate, where I can just toss some words together, because who cares anyway, it’s just a means to an end. That, however, does not mean I need to make my life more difficult, which, of course, I have done.

One master degree concentration? I think I’ll do two.

I don’t like any of these classes on the schedule. I’ll make up my own!

You’re going to assign paper topics? I’ll ignore those and write about something much more complex.

Half-ass? Nope, just can't do it.
Half-ass? Nope, just can’t do it.

No one can say that I haven’t embraced the “you get out what you put in” philosophy. But, really? I need to give myself a break. And, I almost did it. I’m so close. I wrote a paper last week that I’d been anxious about writing. (Why was I anxious? Just because.) My therapist challenged me to just sit down and write it in three hours. It’s a reasonable amount of time for a 1500-word paper. But, I was already in too deep; I’d dragged Aristotle into it. It took me an hour just to compile the works cited and figure out how the hell I was going to document the thing.

Ahhh. Whole ass. Much better.
Ahhh. Whole ass. Much better.

So, here’s to next time. Maybe I’ll finally perfect this whole half-assing thing. 😉


(Shel Silverstein moment inspired by his opening poem in Where the Sidewalk Ends entitled “Invitation.” Not familiar? Shame on you. Get thee to a library!)