On Writing Bottlenecks, Part Two — Wise Words from Dad

After I posted last week’s On Writing Bottlenecks…and an Apology, my dad responded via email with wisdom so juicy I felt compelled to share it publicly with all of you. I’ve pasted his email below (with his permission) — bold emphasis is my own:

Your LAC post covers some important ground re: perfectionism.

In a nutshell:  We live in the age of the polished turd (excuse my vulgarity) where big Industry, big Pharma, big food, big entertainment all try to sell their half-baked crap by polishing it to excess and delivering it in shiny packages, often with little lasting value. This makes many Americans feel that they must polish whatever they create:  food, words, videos, songs, just to compete with the high gloss of the barrage, the polished inundation from corporate America.

One big reason LAC rose to popularity is that you delivered honest, heartfelt ideas not because you delivered perfect ideas. Give your readers the credit for being able to see through shine, the “perfection” as 99% of them can.  

So – just let your ideas fly!  remember the stealth aircraft that can’t fly at all until it takes off and begins to crash – its computers correct its errors 100,000/second and voila!  it flies.  Don’t let your inner critic that has seen too much “polished” stuff hold you back.

It is important for people to remember that honesty is perfection even if it has grammar errors, idea errors, composition errors – all this “non-polish” pales in significance to the beauty of an honest thought.

Polish is such a 16-19th century set of ideas. Cezanne and Picasso lived and painted so people could think about something other than the surface.

A compelling case for shipping and focusing on honesty, not perfection! You can read more of my dad’s thoughts on life, creativity and happiness in his Bliss Engine book and essays (free to download).

I always like to focus on ACTION, whether for myself or my coaching clients, so here’s what I am going to do moving forward:

  1. Keep a list of all potential blog topics in one place
  2. Commit to writing about those topics regularly (perhaps back to the write-two-posts-every-Sunday schedule I followed while working full time), regardless of when I decide to actually post them.
  3. Sometimes goals require baby steps, and sometimes they require an outlandish target to pop you into an entirely different, more creative approach. For example, as a fun experiment this past weekend I sat down with the intention to write 10 posts all in one session — aiming for as much content as though I was putting in a day of work on my book. It took the high expectations off of any one post, and helped me shift into a higher productivity gear altogether. I ended up with 8 — short of the goal, but more than I’ve written in the last two months combined!
  4. Find help for many of the other projects I’m working on to free up more time for writing (in progress!)
  5. Be open to posting shorter and/or more frequent posts, while still honoring my value of quality

This post is a perfect example — my concerns at first were, Am I saying enough? Is this topic worthy of a follow-up? Should I cram more in there? My conclusions: yes, based on the comments — heck yes, and no! It was a bit of a mental argument, but I decided to walk my own talk and hit publish no matter what :)

***

I’d love to hear in the comments: what specific actions do you take to combat procrastination via perfectionism? 

  • http://dshan.me Derek

    “Polish is such a 16-19th century set of ideas. Cezanne and Picasso lived and painted so people could think about something other than the surface.”

    See now that’s the kind of thing I’d have loved to have written, if only I had the ingredients necessary to do so:) I’ve known for a very long time that your father is a genius, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

    I do think the crux of it is that respect lives in congress with flaws, not in lieu of them. Infallible isn’t the ideal, and in fact it’s disrespectful to an audience that you’d assume they can’t determine shine from substance. Right? I mean, my favorite movies don’t let me off the hook; they walk away from me incomplete and leave me to work out the truth they’re proposing. They don’t try to be perfect. My favorite authors, my lord, they’re trainwrecks! Hunter Thompson and Kerouac could barely remember to use punctuation, much less string together a beginning, middle and end like their contemporaries. Theirs was a mission towards truth, openness, and honesty at all costs, and I think that’s what has always been refreshing about you, JB. Years ago, as it is today.

  • Veronica Holtz

    A) Your dad is a genius (I think most dads are, really, just on different topics).
    B) He hit the nail on the head. Wow. I’ve always known this subconsciously, but he put it into writing.
    C) I LOVE your blog posts and it makes me so sad that your desire to make them absolutely perfect is admirable, but if it keeps you from sharing them it’s not worth it. 

    • http://twitter.com/akaBasilBe Basil Be

      Don’t you just love a bit of dad-advice – it always brings it home!!  And I wholeheartedly agree – it’s way too easy to compare to the high ideals out there but, once you cut through it, at the heart is always the same true qualities making it beat … authenticity, honesty and being human…..  You have this in spades!!!

      • Veronica Holtz

        Can’t tell you how many times I’ve called my dad and started the conversation with “Dad, I need a pep talk!”

  • http://17000-days.com/ Cara Stein

    Your dad rocks. :) This is a great post–I’m definitely glad you went ahead and put it out there.

    I’ve been wrestling with the same issue myself, and for me, it’s been really empowering to let go of all the advice. If you read Corbett Barr and some of the other blogs on how to do this well, it’s easy to get so caught up in worrying about whether you’re being useful enough, personal enough, epic enough, catchy enough, etc. etc… that nothing you can think of seems like a good blog post at all. I love Corbett Barr, and I think he’s right 9 times out of 10, but worrying about all that has proved counterproductive for me. When I started my blog, I used to write really good stuff twice a week, and Jonathan pointed out the difference between then and now: now people will read it! Back then I was basically writing whatever I needed to read. There was very little pressure, and I wasn’t so self-conscious. My current aim is to write like that again.

  • http://www.joemcgonigal.com/ Joe

    Jenny,

    Such a good post and great follow up to part one. I started a blog 5 months ago and it’s easy to find yourself stalling to publish because “it’s not perfect.” It’s ultimately a thinly veiled excuse to procrastinate. With a lot of effort, I have been able to acknowledge that written and posted, is often times better than perfect.

    Kudos to your Dad for reinforcing this for all of us.

  • http://twitter.com/elisestephens Elise Stephens

    I love the wisdom your dad sent you! People aren’t interested in perfection as much as something they can relate with, I’ve found, and often when I get so tired or exhausted or frustrated that perfection is impossible, I get the most positive feedback, that I’ve really connected with someone that way.  Funny, how that works!

  • http://twitter.com/RockafellaSkank Debbish

    I love your suggestions… I need to take heed of MOST of them!
    Deb

  • http://www.itstartswith.com/ Sarah Kathleen Peck

    I think we have to let our inner book-editor’s guard down a bit. The beauty of blogging is that it’s a little bit closer to a conversation: you’re allowed to ramble, to dissect, to change your mind, to offer short pieces and long pieces. In the aggregate, we want to be in conversation with you, again and again, over time. If one day you wake up and give us a little tidbit, and a few days later, a longer post, that’s more the point.  It’s an exploration, an engagement, a fluidity. Blogging doesn’t work as well if you don’t show up. 

    The irony is that the editor, the perfectionist in us all wants to package it up like a book and say, “voila!” look at what I have produced! But I think in this internet world, that undermines some of the beauty of this type of publishing and conversation. 

    Plus, we like you a little bit messy and dirty :-D

  • http://www.moneyspruce.com/ Jeffrey Trull

    8 posts in one session?! Whoa, that’s impressive! Might have to try something like that myself.

    Love the message from you dad, too.One of my tricks is to just turn off thinking about why I should or shouldn’t do something and just start on it instead. Starting is the hardest part, and tasks are often not as difficult as you first envision in your mind.

    • Mette

      The “just do it”-part is so true to me too! Things seem to grow – in my head, that is – when I wait too long. That’s why I try to practice doing the hardest thing first thing in the morning, and after that everything feels easier. 

      Thank you Jenny for sharing your dad’s wise and interesting words!

  • http://findingourwaynow.com/ Susan Cooper

    Dads have a way of putting things in perspective.  Yours did a great job of helping you hit the reset button and move on.  

    I get what you’re saying.  I have been blogging full time for a little while and one of the biggest challenges I have is trying to make each post brilliant.  I am dyslectic and blogging is an interesting proposition for me, at times a major challenge.  The funny thing is no one else seems to notice.  So I have adopted a new philosophy called “good enough”.  It has taken the pressure off and I am much more incline to click to publish button (after reviewing my product to many times for the obvious errors I may not see) sooner as a result.

    Thanks for your and your father’s wisdom.  :-),  Susan

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