Nurture Yourself in the Pursuit of Perfection #1000speak

Nurture Yourself in The Pursuit of Perfection #1000speak

There used to be a time when I would accept nothing less than perfection. I still fight the frustration when I’m not completely perfect.

I’ve come to believe perfectionism it’s a disease. An infection that slowly eats away at your skin until it buries itself into your bone and spreads to every corner of your body like an angry cancer. The growing niggle questioning whether perfectionism is something to be strived for, or maybe, abhorred has become a raging monster, and now, a blog post…

As writers creative people we torture ourselves striving for something that deep down we all know is almost impossible to achieve. And if we somehow do achieve it, we spend our lives endlessly searching for that golden thread of genius within us so we can create another masterpiece. It’s like a drug, an addiction, a sought after high impossible to replicate.

But what is this blind search for perfectionism doing to our mental health and psyche? I talked about the shocking truth behind creativity recently, where there was an underlying point from Gilbert about depression in creative people.

Creative people in particular seem to suffer a high prevalence of depression, suicide and other mood disorders, including most frequently, bipolar disorder. Van Gogh was Bipolar and suffered tremendously until his suicide at 37. Syvia Plath, another sufferer with a mood disorder and eventually she committed suicide to at just 31. There are others, who vehemently argue against this trend of depression in creative people, and if you read enough research then like everything you can find enough studies that you end up sat on the fence completely befuddled.

I’m ignoring most of the science and am speaking from experience, with just a little science thrown in; from knowing many a creative person and seeing the effect of creativity gone awry, and from experiencing it myself.

My focus is on writers and one of the earliest studies of creativity and mood disorders focused on writers. It showed that 80% of writers had some variant of mood disorder. But why? Are we predisposed to mood disorders? Do we have hormone imbalances? Is it because we spend so long lost in our thoughts, pondering, reflecting, dissecting our every ideation and decision? Do we spend too long deliberating and judging ourselves? Does that lead the creative into a spiralling depression as we deconstruct ourselves and examine each tiny piece of us and our stories?

I know for me, boredom, and the restriction of my creativity is extremely bad for my mental state. I can end up in a very dark place if I am not allowed to thrive as a creative person. And yet equally, I can drive myself literally insane in the pursuit of that winning story, that character that makes someone cry, or laugh or fear for their safety. I can be so critical of myself its self destructive but especially for my sanity. I’m trying to pursue something I know I will never be able to achieve.

Despite constantly striving for perfection, I don’t believe it exists.

Will I ever be able to put the pen down, stop tweaking? Can you? I doubt it.

  

There’s just one more tweak? One tiny edit, a comma? A sentence? Sound familiar?

We grind ourselves down, wear down all our drive and pick and nag at our creative minds until we leave ourselves in a creative black hole. I think over striving for perfection gives us writers block and depression. If we pursue a concept that doesn’t exist we set ourselves up for constant failure.

Society is the same. Kids today think Barbi is perfection. (Yes that really is a real woman)

valeria-lukyanova

Kids think that plastic fantastic is acceptable and something to aim for. But sometimes when you get a little too hooked on achieving the impossible on too much plastic this happens:

Plastic Fantastic

Ok, maybe I’m being a little facetious but you see the point I’m making?

I wrote a poem last #1000speak, so this time I decided to share something personal. I have edited this, removed some of the bits that made me cringe, but it’s mostly intact. I wrote this piece when I was just coming out of a dark hole, it’s an odd piece of writing, more of a stream of consciousness rather than a story or anything much, but I think it makes the point, creative depression is not good by any standard:

Phantom Limb by Sacha Black

I am watching my life through his eyes, at his mercy.

My glass was always half empty, its why I never noticed the cracked cup, the leaking liquid. He didn’t arrive with the grandeur entrance I expected. He snuck quietly into my life like the silent thief, slyly changing the minutia, stealing my belongings until he consumed everything.

I can never see the world through those precious rose spectacles I used to have. The virgin eyes I owned are gone. Stolen. He took them for himself, replaced them with his dark and twisted ones. I didn’t even notice. Not until I was already exhausted from staring through his shadowy specs.

I understand what numb is; to really feel nothing.

It’s infinite.

He took my feelings away one by one. Every happy thought tarnished by a rusty anesthetized memory.

I am left watching my life play out through him.

I am his phantom limb. I see my life, but I’m not really there. I used to be present, alive, able to breathe. But now I’m surrounded by a vast suffocating nothing.

He torments me with the life I could lead. I am ashamed of him. I am meant to be strong. Unbreakable. Instead I crumbled like an ash statue. He blew over my life, and I drifted apart piece by piece.

He is the dirty little secret I punish myself for.

I’m tired of being a phantom limb.

I will not do it any more.

No matter how foggy his spectacles get, I will smear the lenses until I can see the tunnel in the distance. I know there is a light at the end of it.

***

I’m not suggesting we should stop striving or aiming for the top. I’m saying sometimes we need to take a step back and remember, perfection is usually impossible. What we create may well be someone else’s idea of perfection. You will be someone’s favourite author. I highly doubt whatever I create, no matter how many drafts or how many edits I do, I will ever be truly happy with it. So why not accept that? And be kind to ourselves?

We need to start believing that just because ‘WE’ don’t think something is perfect, doesn’t mean somebody else won’t. There is no perfect – perfect is unobtainable because what you think is perfect, I won’t. No two concepts of perfect align. Our own concepts of perfectionism are dangerous, and unrealistic. Praise yourself, nurture yourself away from that pedestal. Perfection isn’t all that anyway, it’s boring, outdated. It’s the goody two shoes at the front of the class, the ‘know it all’ everyone sniggers at when they finally get a question wrong.

Isn’t that the point? Humanity is interesting because we are full of mistakes and problems. Aren’t the best characters the ones who fuck up, and make mistakes? Isn’t that why we secretly like the anti-hero?

Nurture yourself. Stop striving for the unachievable. No body likes Miss Perfect anyway.

Little Miss Perfect

But more important than anything, don’t forget…

You Will Be Someone's Favourite Author

34 comments

  1. Fabulous post Sacha!

    Your *stream of consciousness* section is raw, and beautiful, an emotive read.

    I relate to your turmoil, the struggle for perfection….the *one more edit, one more check* – the self doubt.

    A vulnerable piece….but your strength shines through.

    take care, Kimmie x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. aww thank you so so much, that means the world to me 😀 the turmoils are awful, but in a strange way they also give us inspiration, or at least they do for me when I come through the other side. ugh, perfectionism is an awful thing, why do we do it to ourselves?! thanks so much for reading the post 😀

      Like

  2. Yep spot on. I’m not sure I’m typical in that my mood swings seem to be up and upper but I get the tinkering piece. Dead Flies would never have ended if I hadn’t self published it. At last it was gone, someone else’s to live and love and I could go back to having babies and bringing them up.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The harshest of critics has nothing on my inner one. Ruthless. I have never, and never will I strive for perfection, but whatever I write comes under intense internal scrutiny.

    Strewth, that was heavy for me. I’m going for a biscuit.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow, what a read!

    Sacha, I so much enjoyed this piece of writing from you. It’s really made me think about me and my writing very much. Why? Well because, until you mentioned it, I’ve never considered that it ever made me moody. However, thinking about it I already now acknowledge that when it’s time to shut down the computer and stop writing and creating, a part of me feels let down that another part of life is taking what I really want to do, away.

    Yes I know, no where near being depressed, and fortunately I’ve not suffered with any kind of depression since the mid 1990’s, but you’ve certainly given us all food for thought here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so glad you liked the post Hugh 😄 I find it fascinating that you feel that way. I definitely feel like anything that isn’t writing isn’t the best use of my time and I certainly get resentful of work and housework and all the necessities in life that I don’t really want to do! I hate it because all I want to do is spend my time creating interesting worlds and stories! But sometimes that pursuit drives me mad too. But I am definitely happiest when I write 😄

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I so agree. I’m having to go to a Wedding in Manchester on Friday, which means travelling up tomorrow and back on Saturday. To me that is three days lost for writing. I’m just hating the thought, but I’m sure I will enjoy the Wedding. Hopefully I’ll get some good ideas for future posts and some short stories from the event.

        I can’t wait to get back into the norm of my everyday life where I have time to write.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I just went through almost 2 weeks of not writing – can you imagine the anguish im feeling right now?! Hideous! I feel for you going up there for over a weekend – especially because weekends are prime writin time. 😡 but weddings are lovely and as U say and maybe someone will do something outrageous which will be perfect story writing fodder!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I am the happiest I have ever been writing, Sacha. I am not moody, instead I think I found out that I was an introverted person who loves doing introverted things. Not bad to figure out after this many years. I see our writing as a gift. Somehow, we see things in our minds and are able to transfer those visions to paper for others to experience. That is a good thing in my book. I loved this thought provoking article. Well done! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree im definitely happiest writing, it’s one of the only things other than my son that can turn an awful day round for me. So much so, when I don’t write I feel crappy. But it’s such an intense drive to write that often I can drive myself mad in the pursuit of a perfect story. I’m so glad you found what makes you happy 😄 and thank you for reading the post 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You always seem to write something I need to read. Thank you. I found that when I am writing poetry I am at my best when I am at my worse. When it comes to writing stories though I seem to flop back and forth and the story is affected by my moods. I suppose that is normal though and that I am not the only one. Lately I am finding myself become resentful if I don’t get to write something. I was sick all last week and did not get to write much, could barely see, let alone write. Anyway, thank you for this post. Your piece was very familiar to me…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahh storm, thanks for reading it. I am glad you liked it :). and glad it was familiar to you and that I’m not alone in feeling like crap when I cant write. What are you working on at the minute?

      Like

  7. Thank you for that awesome message that I will be someone’s favorite author! That really makes my day. I actually like what I write, but when I know that someone else is about to read it, I fill up with murky doubt, that they won’t like it. Having grown up under the paranoid gaze of a perfectionist who feared that any infraction would bring unwanted attention to our family, I can’t do perfectionism at all. Yet I have strong sense of excellence and I try to bring the visions of my imagination to life, enjoying the attempts as much as the finished imperfect product. Your writing dares to go to the edge and into the dark. It’s vivid and deep. If we ever feel depression I think it’s from being so daring to go where others just skim. Ah, but then we’d miss the beauty of our words that made it out to the light with us.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. 🙂 your welcome, I am glad it made your day, and it’s true too. You will be 🙂

      Gosh what a wonderful thought – our words that make it out into the light with us. that give me vivid imagrey 🙂

      My mind is riddled with caliginous corners. I spend a lot of my life right on the edge, I tread the line between light and dark, and I think its where my writing originated – from walking that line and having one arm in the dark and the other in the light. I manage most of the time to stay on the light side – just. But its a great place to be, because I can draw inspiration from very strange places.

      interesting, I cant imagine what it must have been like growing up under a perfectionist. The wife has elements of OCD which are hard enough to deal with.

      ahh the salmon of doubt! yeah, I have that too. I always think my writing isnt good enough and that its shit. sad really. no confidence at all, despite outward appearances and despite what everyone else thinks. My problem is occasionally I cant control it and then it paralyses me.

      Im with you on enjoying the attempts – although mostly I realise ive enjoyed them after I finish!! haha

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This —> “There’s just one more tweak? One tiny edit, a comma? A sentence? Sound familiar?” So very familiar, my dear. Great post. But, please, I beg of you…tell me that picture is not a real person. That is the creepiest thing I have ever seen. It’s fake. It has to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great post, Sacha; and thank you for sharing your darkest thoughts. I’m not sure that I’m a perfectionist, though there are some that say I am. I do like to do a good job, the best i can, so I do like to tweak, check the spelling, punctuation, try another word or phrase. I perhaps strive to be an excellentist rather than a perfectionist, though am not sure even that I’m successful there. I’m just happy doing what I can. I think I have learned, or accepted, that good enough is good enough; but maybe that puts me lower on the rungs of creativity’s ladder. If so, then that’s okay too. I’m happy where I am.
    Your poem/stream of consciousness “Phantom Limb” spoke volumes to me. Being consumed by another until it seems you have no identity of your own, invalidated, un-valued and devoid of feeling is not a good place. I’m pleased you came out of it. But the coming out produced a very powerful piece of writing. How I interpret your writing, is very close to how I sense Marnie, of my stories, is feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder if that’s one of the reasons I relate to her so much? I really do feel for Marnie.

      I don’t think not being a perfectionist puts you lower down the ladder in fact the opposite. I think you are enlightened and I wish I was. I find perfectionism to be debilitating. It disempowers and causes block and stifles my creativity. It’s fear inducing. I would much rather be free of it.

      Thank you for reading the stream of consciousness, means a lot. ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is a little of me in there too, which helps me feel her pain. I think a lot of us have gone through some days when our validity is in question. It helps us empathize when we see the vulnerability in others, and are drawn to help, as if wiping away their pain would wipe away our own.
        I enjoy reading your thoughts and appreciate that you share them. 🙂

        Like

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