Intro

  • This article is written in my experimental Bullet Blog format
    • Let me know if you find it readable
  • Perfectionism is often touted as a positive quality
    • But that’s more like “pursuit of excellence”
  • Perfectionism can have many negative consequences
    • Giving up on things because they won’t be perfect
    • Not even starting something because you’re afraid you can’t make it perfect
    • Anxiety and depression over the quality of things you do attempt
    • Unable to share your accomplishments because they aren’t perfect
    • Procrastination because you don’t think it can be good enough
    • Generally missing out on all the life experiences that are a little messy
  • I am not professionally trained as a mental health expert
    • I feel that all those untrained people claiming to solve your problems are:
      • at best, well-meaning but arrogant
      • at worst, scammers
    • But I still want to share a technique I came up with to help a friend battle perfectionism
  • There are many other resources and you should search the web to find them
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy can be particularly useful
    • Many authors have done a much better job discussing this than I can
    • Ten Days To Self Esteem was very helpful to me
      • (affiliate link)

Guess What!?

  • You are already perfect.
  • We done here? 🤗

My technique

  • Get a pen and piece of paper
    • Or your journal
    • This is important
      • Typing doesn’t have the same effect on the brain
        • at least, for me
        • but psychiatric research confirms it
  • Put a title at the top of the page
    • “Already Perfect”
    • Feel free to choose your own
    • This is clearly optional
      • it helps set the scene for your mind to do the exercise

The introductory questions

  • Write down these three questions, leaving space for answers:
    • What is the thing I want to do?
    • What does a perfect outcome look like?
    • What are the failure scenarios?
  • Fill in the space for the first question
    • What is the thing I want to do?
    • This should be a concrete task
    • Be specific
      • Bad example:
        • Start writing more
      • Better:
        • Write a novel
        • This is my running example
  • Fill in the space for the second question
    • What does a perfect outcome look?
    • Make it outlandish
    • As over-the-top as possible
    • Bad example:
      • Publish a book
    • Good example:
      • Become the all-time best selling author
        • That’s right, more than Agatha Christie or William Shakespeare
  • Answer the third question
    • What are the failure scenarioes?
    • Don’t be outlandish this time
    • Pick things that resonate with you
    • Maybe things you might be ashamed or embarrassed to tell someone
      • Regardless of whether they are actually shameful things
    • There will probably be more than one answer here
    • Example:
      • The novel doesn’t get finished
      • Nobody likes the novel
      • The novel doesn’t get published

The Path To Perfection

  • Write down the perfect scenario again
    • ALl-time best selling author
  • Now try to come up with something that is just one step below that level of perfection
    • One all-time best-selling book
    • Draw an arrow from the first statement to this one
  • Write down the next level down perfection
    • Be selected as book of the year
  • Draw an arrow connecting the previous statement to this one
    • I suggest putting the arrows in random directions
      • not one below the other
      • helps shift the brain from analytic mode to creative mode
      • might come up with more off-the-wall ideas
  • Repeat with decreasing ideas of perfection
    • Make the best-seller list
    • Only 5 star reviews on amazon
    • Average 4 star reviews on Amazon
  • Keep going until you hit one of your failure scenarios
    • All reviewes are negative
    • Book doesn’t get published
  • Draw an arrow pointing to the word FAIL in big letters
  • Then draw another pointing to a new question: “Is it really?”
    • Meaning, is it really a failure; is it the worst possible outcome?
  • The answer is almost certainly no
    • You might have to think about it a bit
    • Now is the time to get outlandishly negative again
  • Keep drawing arrows and writing out increasingly bad situations
    • I don’t submit the book to a publisher
    • Ask yourself again, “Is it really the worst possible outcome?”
    • Book doesn’t get finished
    • “Is it really the worst possible outcome?”
    • I only finish one draft
    • I only finish half the book
    • I only finish one chapter
    • I only write one paragraph
  • Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you couldn’t possibly be any worse
    • I never start the book
    • It really is the ultimate fail scenario
  • Add the words “Path to acceptably perfect”
    • Draw an arrow from the failure scenario
  • Start drawing arrows back through the chain
  • At each step, ask yourself the question
    • Is this good enough, for me?
    • Be sincere with yourself
      • Really sincere
  • If it isn’t good enough for you, put an ✖ beside that step
    • And draw another arrow
    • I never start
    • I only write one paragraph
    • I only finish one chapter
    • I only finish half the book
  • If it is good enough
    • Circle that text
    • write the words “Acceptably Perfect” beside it
    • (I only finish the first draft)
  • This acceptable outcome is:
    • Almost certainly not at the very top of the chain
      • *It never was worlds best all-time author
    • Probably not as far up the chain as what you originally said was a perfect outcome
      • The first draft was “acceptably perfect”, rather than the original “getting published”
  • Not only do you know what outcome is good enough:
  • You also know the individual steps you have to complete to get there
    • Write a paragraph
    • Write a chapter
    • Write half a book
    • Write the first draft
  • Go do them!

Rationale

  • If it’s at all helpful, this exercise will hopefully:
    • Help clarify your goal
      • Just want to write a book; publishing isn’t important
    • Help you find an achievable, rather than perfect outcome
      • Writing a book is something you can do. Having people like it is outside your control
    • Provide step-by-step milestones to reach the goal
    • Understand that “perfect” is completely subjective
      • You never did intend to become the all-time best seller
        • The original “Get published” wasn’t at the top of the list
        • neither is the more achievable “finish one draft”
        • You have control over how good you want it to be
    • Understand that “perfection” is an iterative process
      • You won’t get it right the first time
      • You can’t publish a book without writing a first paragraph
      • Every book you write teaches things about writing.
      • Brandon Sanderson wrote 10 novels before Elantris was accepted for publication
        • He says they are really bad novels
        • Elantris is great, but he just keeps getting better
  • I put a written example in the cover image
    • But the scaling is odd
    • so I copied it below
    • Sorry my handwriting isn’t perfect
  • I hope some readers find this helpful
  • I’m going to go get started on my second novel
    • The first isn’t going to be published

The example