Perfectionism is something to strive for, but when does perfectionism become an obsession – a fear of your work never being good enough, always thinking you can do better.
During the process of a final edit on one of the first articles that I was having published, I had to ask myself, when would ‘enough be enough’.
At the time, I found the question difficult to answer. Now, I know it is different for everyone and different for each piece of work.
Back then, I realized that a more appropriate question to ask myself was, am I stalling because of my fear of failure, or is my work truly unfinished, needing more editing?
Saying, I’m finished, meant there was no more reason to hold back, nothing from stopping me to submit my work and perhaps face a rejection. At some point, I needed to take the next step, but I never thought that that step would be so difficult.
I remember the day that I finally said, “This is it! Today, I’m going to submit it.” I literally had to force myself to go through each step. And once I had it submitted, I fretted the entire time, waiting to hear back from the magazine editor if it was good enough.
Everything turned out fine. He loved the article, and two months later, I saw my article in print on the shelves.
With each publication, the feeling became more clear as to when I was satisfied enough with my work to submit it. I still question every piece I write as to whether it is good enough.
Just recently, I finished my first novel for publication. The experience was more intimidating, but I know that there comes a point where I need to move on and be satisfied with my work – I need to take that step of courage.
One day, I began to think about how well I really took care of myself as a writer, one who spends hours slouching behind her computer desk, constantly focusing on the screen, and forgetting everything around her.
Of course, nutrition is important and so is a regular exercise program; however, I was looking more so at my habits while writing and finding remedies that I could incorporate that would contribute to the betterment of my health, during my writing hours.
During my long days and often nights of writing, I began to critically access myself from the top down.
Do I clear my thoughts enough?
For someone, like me, who often writes many hours straight through, forgetting to take any descent breaks, the thought seldom occurred to me.
I alleviated this problem by getting out of my office for a short time after two or three hours of writing, to refresh my thinking . This distraction enhanced my creativity, often giving me a new perspective on my writing.
Do I give my eyes enough breaks from the hours of staring at the bright screen?
Being so absorbed in my writing, I seldom gave my eyes any consideration other then when they screamed from dryness or ached from tiredness.
Every fifteen minutes, it is recommended to look away from the screen and stare at a distant object to change your focus. Of course, being so absorbed in my writing, how was I to remember to look away every so often.
As a reminder, I used a timer that I set for fifteen-minute intervals. After each fifteen minutes, I take a few minutes to look out my office window and focus on something farther away. I know that without an alarm reminding me, the task would be next to impossible. Those fifteen minutes would slip to an hour, probably more like two or three.
Do I sit up straight?
I discovered my posture, too, needed improvement. I couldn’t believe how many times, I caught myself slouching.
Slouching was a more difficult point to conquer. I often didn’t realize that I was sitting in that terrible hunched position. A good chair helps, but it can only do so much. I needed to be consciously aware of my posture at all times. I did get help from my family. When they see me sitting hunched over, they come and press my shoulders back as a reminder to sit straight. I also started doing weight lifting to strengthen the muscles that help keep your back and shoulders straight. What really helped was setting a book on top of my head. Yes, I know it looks ridiculous but it works! I have noticed that sitting straight makes the long hours of writing more comfortable.
Do I treat my typing hands with respect?
This was one thing I did do.
When I began to write longer hours, I invested in a proper keyboard to take away the strain on my wrists, I got a proper mouse and key pad for support, and often during my writing, I give my hands a light shake or stretch.
Do I get enough movement into my legs while I write?
Who thinks of their legs when they are absorbed in their writing?
Sitting for long periods is terrible for the legs; in fact, it has many ill effects on your health. It is claimed that extreme sedentary is worse than excessive smoking. I never knew that my long hours behind my desk was so unhealthy. Inactivity is such a problem that an organization exists that fights against it, called Researchers against Inactivity-Related Disorders (RID).
Due to the importance of regular movement, I put a stair-climber right beside my office desk. Using my trusted timer again, every half hour, I step onto my climber to exercise my legs for a short time, enhancing my circulation.
Now that I treat my body with care, it rewards me with feeling better and having a clearer mind with improved concentration. I hope, I can continue to enforce these points for the betterment of my health and my success.
Awhile back, I began to practice my, “Motto of the Month”, to help develop, motivate, and improve myself in all facets of my life.
What is my “Motto of the Month?”
At the beginning of every month, I come up with a motto that I incorporate faithfully for that month.
Why for a month?
Because I learned that, it takes at least three weeks to break bad habits.
When I first started using a rule to live by each month, it had been strictly for my writing practices, but I later incorporated it to encompass the rest of my tasks.
One motto that I used was something that I had always impressed upon my children to do: Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.
I was already doing my writing to the best of my ability, but what about my other tasks.
Tasks you enjoy come easily; the ones you dislike are the ones that need dedication.
By everything, I meant every task like doing errands, cleaning, laundry (which I absolutely hate), grocery shopping, telephone calls, flossing teeth, planning dinner, taking out garbage, car washing, working-out, and so forth. You get the idea. No matter what the task, I would do it to the best of my ability.
It’s amazing when you start to analyze each task you take-to-hand, how much improvement can be added if you do it to the best of your ability. I have to admit that I found it sad how many of my mundane and disliked tasks were not completed to the standard I was capable of doing them.
Doing everything with
can enormously enhance your life and the life of others. Surprisingly, it doesn’t even take that much more time to do things to the best of your ability; in fact, I found it often saved me time in the long run. I didn’t need to redo or finishing doing something that was only partly or incorrectly done.
What it did require was mental energy, the willingness to do it to my best standards.
After applying my “Motto of the Month” for a whole month, it started to become automatic. I have never looked at a task the same again. I do my jobs with pride and have a great sense of satisfaction knowing I did it to the best I was capable of doing it.
I highly recommend you try this motto, everything you do, do to the best of your ability, and see the phenomenal results you get. I assure you, your life we be enormously improved.