Tag Archives: perfectionism

Waiting In Bewilderment

“To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass—seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Navel-gazing is one thing. A “colo-rectal theology” puts a whole other spin on it.

So often, we think we’re so smart when we’re anything but.

Most of us think too highly of ourselves while battling low self-esteem. How can this be? I think I’m unworthy of love and I am too certain of myself. You too?

holly

I should be even more honest here. What teachers and adults often thought was quiet confidence, I was both too proud and self-assured, and too terrified of being seen. I was too in control of my world and too afraid to show my feelings and let anyone know me.

If I didn’t show myself, maybe I could remain unharmed. And that worked for a while. Sort of.

Now I write continually asking a different question. Am I willing to show this? And even further, Am I willing to be uncertain?

Because I never know if it’ll be useful. That’s not what’s important. What matters is if I trade my rational control, can I be lost in bewilderment, willing to trust and go forward anyway?

Sometimes, life’s full of inspiration and insight that comes pouring out. But that isn’t its usual state. Life is uncertain. So many people want to tell you what life means. But life means uncertainty.stream

My post last week was about believing that the struggle is a necessary part of the beauty that will eventually be revealed. I quoted three writers on what that struggle to wait looks like for them. Then I said:

“If you understood the truth of the BLESSING coming, you’d understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting….If you could measure the size of the result of your persistence, you’d know the reason the one thing he asks for is faith.”

It was encouraging to remember that everyone struggles to believe.

On Tuesday the 3rd, when Harper Lee’s new book was announced, I felt God rekindling something in me from long ago that had been burning low: “Will you simply believe and trust Me regardless of what things look like?”

I don’t know why that was the message I sensed, but I wanted to say yes.

I didn’t think being willing to wait in bewilderment was a key measure of maturity, but for me, I think it just might be. When the evidence of my foolishness, my incapability, my lack of conviction and immaturity and fitness to carry this vision I’ve been assigned–when it all comes parading before me, can I accept and wait there in confusion? Can I choose to respond with the all-important willingness to accept “I don’t know,” and write in the darkness anyway?

That’s hard. That’s not certainty or control. That’s something else.

caveThat’s got to be a place of faith. That’s saying yes to God’s question: Will you simply trust and believe? Instead of fighting to prove myself, can I lay that down? Instead of faking everything’s fine, will I just believe he knows what the point of this waiting is?

Instead of giving up, holing up, clamming up,  will I trust that he knows more than I what’s coming, and speak anyway? Instead of making a selfish grab for attention, will I make room for the stabler foundation he is building, i.e. the only thing that can and will speak of a higher purpose?

Don’t you want to say it with me, “YES, Lord?” deer

I want to choose to simply step forward anyway in faith that the guiding light will find me and illuminate the way.

What if beyond characters, our own character is the real point? What if getting this now is what prevents us from getting hurt when we do publish? What if we did get out of this waiting what we really needed by not getting out of it?

Could we give our reader what they truly long for amidst publisher demands and a want-driven market?

Patience. Wisdom. Something larger than yourself and your weak human nature.

All we may need when we’re unsure and afraid is not power or insight, but a powerful trust in the sovereignty of God over all we do. That is the one thing irreplaceable. And won’t we learn it if we’re only willing to endure the angst and pain of waiting in bewilderment for the answer to come?

Maybe the best answer is the simplest:

I don’t know. 

 

For the higher purpose,

Mick

Getting the New Words Down

There’s no other goal.

And yet, so often, it feels like the only thing I can’t manage to do.

So I’m constantly searching for help.

It’s a perk of running a site for writers as long as I have—I get the direct benefit. All the great insights and stories of writers struggling just like all of us, people you’d think have no worries, they’re so prolific and powerful.

But everyone who writes struggles.

This week, I wrote a new chapter. But it almost didn’t happen.

It had everything to do with the fact that in the space of two days, three incredibly inspiring writers shared inspiration from their own struggles.

Anne Lamott, Glennon Melton and Ann Voskamp.

Anne Lamott shared at Facebook.

“I love not writing books. I think it might be what I want to do when I grow up. But other than writing, I am completely unemployable.”

Anne-Lamott-Feature

She said she and her editor were done with her last book Small Victories in early August. That’s the part she said she loves—having a trusted partner help her get the final drafts to their best. But then, nothing for months. And she doesn’t want to do it anymore.

You wait to hear whether anyone likes it, all the time sure “you have squandered your life thinking you could write.” And people start asking what she’ll do next.

And after 16 books, she feels everything’s already said.

She just wants to help people keep their heads above water, She said she doesn’t know what she’s doing and just wants to be of service—“partly because God tells me too, and partly because it is the only way to fill up.”

Glennon Melton shared she was struggling with deep doubt.

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“I regret to inform you that I am currently surrendering to the pull of a dark whirlpool of self-loathing and panic and doubt because during the writing of this second book it has come to my clear attention that I am – as a matter of sad fact – the worst writer in the history of the world…. It is over for me. It was a nice ride, but apparently I have only been able to fake being a writer for six years…. And I also need to change religions because shouldn’t Jesus have TAUGHT ME SOMETHING BY NOW? SOME WISDOM OR SOMETHING? SOMETHING I CAN USE?”

An hour later, she posted a status update.

Hundreds of messages of encouragement had poured in:

Dear G,

Just a thought. What if it’s OK to love and hate hard things at the same time. Like labor. Yes, like giving birth. It’s hard. Everything about it. Before, during and after. Yet 95% of people I know swoon while telling their story. (I did hair for 10 years. I’ve heard a lot of stories). Same thing about having littles. HARD STUFF. Complain all the way through it. Yet 1,000,000 people will stop you and say “enjoy it” because they miss it. You get the idea.

Soooo I say… It’s ok to dislike today in your book number two journey. It’s a part of the awesome story yet to be told. And you’ll swoon over it all later. The mess you feel today. Yeah. Embrace it sister. Your message is coming.”

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And then my own favorite Ann Voskamp, confronted her own fears.

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Dear You,

who doesn’t want to…do that big thing that feels like an impossible thing—okay, yeah, boy, do I hear you.

…You’re meant to do hard and holy things because they are the next thing—to get to the best thing.

…you get to choose: either the Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Disappointment.

…Potential doesn’t add up to anything if you get addicted to perfectionism because perfectionism is slow death by self.

Fire your perfectionism and your procrastination will quit too.

Because here’s the thing: You’re the Presenter.

You’ve been given a gift and you’re the person who is trying to be present to this present moment and do the hard work of unwrapping your gift, your talent, your vision, your God-given dreams. Presenters want to be present to life and their calling and the joy and the work but they know that the path is painful.

Presenters know that the path is painful because behind every corner lurks The Perfectionist Terrorist. The Perfectionist Terrorist is a liar to the nth degree. He tells you that if you’d just get it perfect enough, do it right enough, be good enough—that you’ll be liked by everyone enough.

But the truth of it is? Sometimes you have to accept that you’ll never be acceptable enough for some people. And whether you accept that as their issue or yours is up to you.

The Perfectionist Terrorist claims to have High Road Motives, claims to want to make everything turn out perfect, but his policing pressures you and poisons you and prosecutes you, until it all paralyzes you.

So The Procrastinator tries to protect you, The Presenter, from The Perfectionist Terrorist, tries to intervene with distractions, temptations, and interruptions—or just pushes you to pull out and give up.

…So Who’s missing in this struggling, messy triangulation of The Presenter, the Perfectionist Terrorist, and The Procastinator? The compassionate Words of Perfect Love.

…His Perfect Love who accepts you 100% before you perform even 1%. There is His Perfect Love who speaks Protection and Peace and promises the Power of the Holy Spirit—so you can fire perfectionism and procrastination will quit too.

You fire your perfectionism every time you let His Perfect Love ignite you.

When you rest in Perfect Love, discipline comes easily because you’re being a disciple of Perfect Love, you’re following Perfect Love.

And Perfect Love says you don’t to have show anyone up; you just have to show up.

Perfect Love says you don’t have to impress anyone; you just have to press on.

Perfect Love says when you mess up He’ll pick you up… and when you can’t carry on, He’ll carry you.”

65614cf5b209017449d0bab900147be2If you understood the truth of the BLESSING coming, you’d understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting.

If you could see the smile of God for what he knows is coming, you’d understand the meaning of beautiful within this temporary suffering.

If you could measure the size of the result of your persistence, you’d know the reason the one thing he asks for is faith.

Belief.

Not in yourself. In his perfect provision.

Just get the new words down today. There is no other goal.

“Start Messy, End Neat” : My One Trick for Writing Success

One of the big problems I didn’t realize about becoming an editor is that now I have a particularly pernicious inner editor to overcome.

Thankfully, I’ve recently learned a trick for overcoming the typical block I get in working on my book. Given my tendency toward perfectionism, it’s no wonder my novel has sat on my hard drive for over a decade.

Stare deeply...
Stare deeply…

As an editor, and a typical human being I suppose, I’m prone to comparisons. Most of the time I know better than to compare myself to Wendell Berry and Frederick Buechner. But the worst trouble seems to come in comparing the blank page or the messy page to my own finished work that’s been previously well-received.

The expectation of writing well right out of the gate can stop me cold.

I have no idea why this is. I can’t remember lines of dialogue or what I had for breakfast, but I seem to have total recall of what that work took out of me.

But at that point, I have to remember my one trick for beating perfectionism and getting the next stream of words onto the page. I don’t remember when I learned this, am I’m sure it’s not original, but it has helped me many times. Thankfully, I’m a saver, so I always have old drafts of my work lying around (there are also significant downsides to this characteristic, which I won’t go into here). But I dig through my files for a while and pull out the worst old initial draft I can find and I wallow in its vapidity for a while. I force my mind to take in the too-long paragraphs, the lack of cohesion, the cringe-worthy attempts at proving my rationality and sanity.

And it works.

I remind myself the writing process requires a healthy dose of stupidity and blindness. It’s the editing process that requires “stoicism and the suppression of a natural affection.

So fegeddaboudit.

You can know all the good reasons for subjecting your work to a keen eye and a sharp trim. But don’t forget the reason to ignore all that when you set out to write again. Otherwise you may keep a foot on the dock as the boat begins slipping away.

“My own writing process is quite messy. I don’t always write my first drafts in full sentences, so it can take a few passes before things even gel enough for me to see what I’ve got.” 

So try it next time you’re facing the infinite blankness. And also, keep Anne Lamott’s advice on “Shitty First Drafts” handy: “I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

And remember why you started writing in the first place…I have yet to hear anyone say they write in order to impress everyone.

 “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are….You can either practice being right or practice being kind.”

― Anne Lamott