Being a Perfectionist
Children don’t have much control over their environments and compensate by attempting to act independently. For some, this drive leads to huge messes and in others, it leads to order. My childhood contained 90% mess and 10% order.
The order in my life centered around the activities I enjoyed. This included playing with toys and taking things apart to see how they worked. As I grew, my personality changed, and I began emphasizing order over chaos. This change spiked in the ninth grade where my focus shifted towards improving my grades and keeping my room clean. I suppose this is the genesis of my perfectionist attitude.
Over the years, my conscious attitude toward perfection encompassed my job, driving, house, and lifestyle. Of course, I do not apply my compulsion toward all aspects of my life and I have little desire to clean those areas up.
I am aware of my perfectionist attitude and I attempt to manage it. If I were to survey my friends, I suspect they would likely score me at 30% on the perfection scale. This is due to my casual approach to life and lack of confrontation.
When I apply my attitude, I am aware that it can be annoying to those around me. I have an innate desire to keep tinkering. I simply cannot leave something alone until I have fully gone over every aspect multiple times. As an example, I am presently working on a technical drawing that has been submitted five times. Each submission contained minor improvements. However, I am still not comfortable enough to consider it done. Did my perfection result in a better drawing? Did the cost justify the result? In this case, I believe it did, but in the process, I upset two people. In past projects, I clearly should have declared “good enough” much earlier.
Perfection travels deep into my writing. As an example, this blog will be written over the course of 2-3 days. I will then review it for two weeks and do a spell/grammar/style check with two different programs. I put my books through many additional steps plus spot checks.
During book editing, I make many changes and clearly have a strong perfectionist streak. These changes range from single word updates to adding or removing entire chapters. Of course, I see improved results, which clearly read better. Sometimes the story changes, but normally the story is 99% the same. The 1% change comes from filling in gaps and removing distractions. However, one could argue that I should have achieved a state of “good enough” months before the actual release.
Does my perfectionist attitude make a better book? Clearly, the grammar will be better as well as the flow. However, multiple edits can take away the subtle details which give the book its charm. I suppose this makes my works bland and action orientated.
On a side note, I read recently read the book Reamde by Neal Stephenson and I noticed many areas requiring editing. My perfectionist attitude demanded that I edit the work. I found this amusing and strangely compulsive. Overall, it reminded me of what I used to find acceptable.
Another problem with my attitude is that it takes a long time to get through the editing process. My efforts infuriate my editors and cover designers. I am sure they would prefer me to stop meddling with the process. I simply cannot let go and trust them to do their jobs.
In confronting my perfectionist attitude, I have come up with a better plan for my next two works. I am going to do a more disciplined job of editing before turning them over to the professionals. In a way, this will be harnessing my perfectionist attitude. Of course, I have developed a checklist to help in this endeavor. The circle of perfection is complete.
Will I be able to reduce my perfectionist attitude as I grow older? Alas, no. In many ways, I am honing my attitude to encourage perfection. I suppose a perfectionist can never sit still. Dang. The truth hurts. Something for my perfectionist mind to consider.
You’re the best -Bill
September 25 2019
BUY MY BOOK
Read my next blog