Perfectionism aka How To Kill Your Muse...

By Tina Pavlik

Wait a minute. Aren't I the owner of a review site? Why, yes. I am. =) Then what the heck am I doing talking about killing muses? Well, I'm glad you asked. That title really smacks of writing advice, doesn't it? Yeah, I'm a writer too. Who in our community hasn't at least thought about writing, right? Or writes in secret under a pen name or some such? A lot of us.

BUT my post today isn't just meant as writing advice. It's advice that saves me just about every single day and in many different areas of my life.

Let's talk about perfectionism. And why it's bad.

What do you think of when you see that word? Perfectionism? Think of that perfect hero in the book you just read (or wrote)? Think of that perfect classmate or coworker or neighbor who makes fun of you or talks down to you? Or do you think of the people on those magazine covers or on TV or in the movies who were naturally born for heights you'd never achieve/be good enough for, etc.?

When I think of the word perfectionism, it always leaves a negative taste in my mouth. Perfect, in my world just doesn't exist. It doesn't. And I don't even want to try to think that way. The only thing we'll leave alone is that perfect hero -- that's my romance fix. Besides, if the author did her job right, he's not that perfect. He's got an adorable flaw buried beneath those gorgeous eyes and eight pack abs, right? LOL

I think of something being perfect or trying to do something perfect or trying to make something perfect and I panic. About 99% of us do. If a thing is perfect, we have the potential to screw it up. If we try to do something perfectly, we'll make a mess of it. And trying to make something perfect right out of the box? Not even possible. I'll just slink off and go die in a ditch right now, thank you very much.

See what I mean? Why try for or want the unattainable? That's not realistic. It's like trying to make a lasagna for the first time and wondering why it's not as good as Emeril's. Hell, it's not as good as Chef Boyardee's! LOL

Perfectionism is scary and what does scary do to the creative impulse? Terrible things. If you're so worried about writing a story and making it perfect, you'll self edit yourself into oblivion. That's true of an endeavor you take on and expect perfection from, right?

Try NOT to be perfect. Try really hard. Why? Because if you don't expect yourself to be perfect, you'll actually get something done. You might sit down and write seven pages on a story or a two page memo for work. It might really suck but you will have accomplished two things. 1) You'll feel good about yourself because you accomplished something and 2) you'll have something to work with. It might not be perfect but as one of the supreme authors of the romance genre once pointed out, you can fix a bad page. You can't fix a blank one. =)

It works out in other ways too. Until recently, I was a terrible cook. Then I tried and decided I'd be the next coming of Emeril. The only thing I didn't do wrong was to burn the house down. LOL But, once I stopped expecting to cook like a culinary genius, I began to learn a lot. Yes, a lot was through trial and error but then I remembered that was how I became a computer programmer in the first place. I didn't take a college course and morph into a computer guru. I screwed up a lot of programs and killed a few computers on my way here and I'm still learning. But I learned through those mistakes. I don't really think I would have learned without them.

So if there is something you really want to do -- write a novel of your own, cook like a champ, write a memo that just might impress your boss enough to give you that promotion -- remember my own simple rule. TRY NOT TO BE PERFECT. What you produce at first may suck, but you don't. And you can fix it. =)

PS -- On a personal note, don't try to fix the plumbing. Want a sure fire way to get your man to do that for you? Find his toolbox and pull out the biggest wrench you can find. Inform him, in a friendly, non sarcastic, non threatening way, that you'll take care of it for him -- and make sure he sees the wrench clutched in your hand. It may take a few moments for him to visualize the flooding you're bound to cause and the repair bill that will result, but give him time. Even climb under the sink and give the pipes a couple of good taps if you're game and physically able. LOL This HAS worked for me. =)

I've got books to giveaway but you have to post for a chance to win them. =) I might throw in some author prizes too.

Thank you!

Best,

Tina Pavlik

The Romance Studio ~ the romance genre today!

http://theromancestudio.com

60 comments:

Amy S. said...

Hi Tina! Great post! I do like for my heroes to have a couple of flaws. They can't be perfect. lol.

Mason Canyon said...

Love your post. I've found that when you find someone that is "perfect," they are really fakes. You've got to have a few flaws to build character.
Besides, where's the fun in being perfect - you have nothing left to strive for.

Carly Carson said...

lol about the plumbing. I'm going to try it. My husband is a genius handyman, but sometimes the urgency to get to it just isn't there.

Good post. I suffer from the perfectionist mode and it is a real hindrance to productivity.

Tina Pavlik said...

Amy, thank you! Can't do the too perfect hero. I recently read a book where the hero was even blind but wow... what a guy. =)

Thanks for blogging with us!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Mason,

Wow, that's an excellent point. Ever notice that the really "perfect" ones are the ones who are totally a mess when you get right down to it? I've totally embraced NOT being perfect. I know what I can do, I know what I can do. I know how to get people to do what I can't do. LOL

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Carly,

On the plumbing, it's all about motivation. And what I find funny is my hubby falls for that one every time. LOL

On creativity, it's true. We can't expect to be perfect right out of the box. That would be like sitting down at a piano and wondering why we can't play and sing like Harry Connick Jr. (We won't EVEN talk about MY singing LOL)

And we're way to harsh on ourselves for NOT being perfect. =)

Tina

Maria Durst said...

Loved the post, I'm so guilty of perfectionism and it's really hard and I always have to remember that not everyone is the driven like me.
It's just so much easier when I let it go. Loved the plumbing advice, don't know if it will work or if I will end up doing the plumbing anyway but it's a good idea!

Nicole North said...

Thanks so much for blogging with us today, Tina! I enjoyed your post! I agree completely with what you said about perfectionism. I enjoy reading about and creating flawed characters. It seems to make them more real and more lovable. I agree about the plumbing advice too. Except I do that with anything and everything my husband is slow about fixing. I act like I'm going to do or fix whatever it is and then he objects and insists on doing it himself. LOL! (Don't tell him I have it figured out.) ;)

Lisa F. said...

Great post, Tina. And funny about the cooking. I also thought if I watched The Food Network all day I would learn how to be a perfect cook. For several weeks I would create fabulous dishes for dinner that I had seen on TV, and the kids would complain every night!

One night we were going in different directions so I just quickly fixed some Hamburger Helper and they couldn't give me enough compliments. The kids just kept on about how good supper was that night. So I learned there is a lot of variations on the meaning of "perfect". Now I'm back to fixing the basics, rarely watch FN anymore, and we're all happy at the end of the day.

shirley said...

My DH and I went to visit his aunt and uncle one evening. She and a step-son were putting in new plumbing in under the kitchen sink. Uncle Ray and my DH sat on the couch and visited. I was stunned.
shirleygyptec

Cathy M said...

Perfectionism is definitely what I don't want in a romance hero or heroine. It's just kinda boring, since it's the flaws and quirks that give a character personality and make for such an interesting storyline.

My dh is a wee bit of a perfectionist, but he really has mellowed out over the years, which makes him so much easier to live with, lol.

creatnchris said...

Hi Tina,

I loved reading your post! The plumbing part was great, as yesterday I did have a huge problem with the plumbing of our rental house. My Dad, the landlord was not wanting to pay for a plumber, he may have changed his mind had I gotten a wrench and said I would take care of it myself! HE_HE_HE!

Tina Pavlik said...

Maria,

I get you. I'm the same way. I don't know that I'd call myself driven but I've always got to be "doing something." So I go nuts if I get out there and expect it to be just so. I get nothing done. LOL

Thank you for coming out!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Nicole, thanks for having me! This is a really great group! =)

Most things in the house -- aside from the cars -- I'm good with. But the plumbing, not so much. LOL I've not caused a flood yet but he knows me well enough to know it's more than a possibility. So he gets on it when he sees me even think about it. LOL

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Lisa! HUGS That's great! And true. Come to find out, my girls like nothing better than Kraft M&C Deluxe kit, Double Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper, salad (who knew?) and lots of raw veggies, dip, and fruit. Okay. I can mostly do that. And without destroying the kitchen. LOL Thank you SO Much for coming out!

Tina

Rebekah E. said...

Great post. No one is perfect and I don't know who would want to be. I think life would be very boring if you were. Our imperfections make us unigue individuals. I love reading a book where the hero has lots of umperfections, it gives the hero more things to over come or possibly lessons to learn in the story. If we are perfect we would never make mistakes and never learn anything.

Patsy said...

Great post! No one is perfect and heroes shouldn't be, either. They are more endearing if the have a flaw or two.

robynl said...

my dh is like Carly's; good intentions but when!!! Dh is very handy actually but slow on the draw--it seems someone else always needs his ability. LOL.

Virginia said...

Hi Tina great post! I don't like the perfect hero and nothing I do is perfect although there are time I wish is was! As far as getting tools out to fix the plumbing my husband will set there and let me fix it. Last weekend is set and let me run a snake through the kitchen sink. So getting the tools out don't work at my house.

lead[at]hotsheet[dot]com

Tina Pavlik said...

Shirley, all I can say is what a woman! LOL That's great! Thank you so much for coming out!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Cathy M, good point. I don't like a too perfect heroine either. I can't relate to those. =)

And my hubby is the exact same way. Used to be pretty wound up but he's getting better. =)

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

creatnchris,

Hey next time give it a try. It really works. LOL Hope it all got fixed up right. =)

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Rebekah E.

You couldn't have said it better than that. If we were perfect, we wouldn't learn anything. That's so true. And I really enjoy being a perpetual student. Makes life fun.

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Patsy,

I think so too. =) I rather like a hero who is flawed. He can look as good as they want LOL But I don't mind a flaw here and there and love it when he knows that about himself. Makes the character all the more human (or believable if he's a were creature of some kind). LOL

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Robyn,

You said it for me. My husband can fix most anything and he's always going to a friend's house to do their stuff. But OUR stuff doesn't get done. LOL That's what gets me. Unless I find some way to motivate him... LOL

Thanks!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Virginia,

So he's a challenge? I love those. Okay, guys, what would possible work in this case? There's got to be something... Let me think. LOL

Thanks!

Tina

V said...

Tina--

Thanks so much for the post. I have been "writing" for years but in retrospect I start but never finish. Why? Because I let fear of not writing the "perfect" or "good" book stop me. Your comments were really right on and hit home. Now to get my butt back in the chair and just write for the joy of it and seeing the characters come to life.

Beth said...

The best things come from people who aren't perfect and know it. They keep trying to make/write things that are better than the last one.

Carol Ericson said...

Tina, I totally agree with you - what great advice! I used to be perfectionistic about many things and then...I had kids (two boys no less). You can't be a perfectionist with boys or you'll drive yourself insane! I approach my writing the same way - can't be perfect the first time out, but you gotta get it down on the page. Thanks for joining us at Fierce Romance and sharing your words of wisdom!

Virginia C said...

So...open the Chef Boyardee, pour it into the lasanga dish,add some Mozzarella & Parmesan, bake to perfection and serve with garlic bread and and salad. You are such a good cook! What time is dinner?

What's really great is when imperfections come together and make someone or something that is truly wonderful. When I first met the love of my life, I thought he was anything but perfect. Then I realized that he was very funny and smart as a whip. His wild and wavy golden blonde hair was soft and silky to the touch. He had the most beautiful green eyes ever! He smelled so good, I could just think about him and smell his musky cologne. We didn't stay together, but he is still the love of my life! No one compares to "Mr. Imperfect" : )

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

annalisa said...

Hi Tina! Really enjoyed your post. I was laughing about your plumbing motivation because it would not work on my hubby. He will fix anything else in the house except plumbing. Either I try to fix it or we call the plumber. Most of the time we call the plumber. LOL!

Also, I do like my heroes flawed! :)

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Tina,

Thanks for the info, especially
about the plumbing! LOL! When my
Honey gets in for the day, he's
in! If I want to go someplace, I
start looking for my purse and the
keys. That's the quickest way to
get him back into the car!!

Pat Cochran

Tina Pavlik said...

V, you can do it. I'll write for pages sometimes before I hit on what I was wanting to say or before I hit on something really good. All the extra words I threw out are worth it at that point.

You can do this. =)

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Beth,

That's it exactly! I'll bet if we look at anything we enjoy now -- computers, TV, appliances, etc. -- that they made a few passes on each one before they had it. =)

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Carol,

Thank you so much for the welcome! I had it in mind I'd have two boys (because I was a tomboy) and I had two girls so someone out there has a sense of humor. LOL I knew next to nothing about playing girlie stuff. LOL I've learned a lot and trying to be a perfect mommy wasn't even possible. See? It's an outlook that works on so many levels!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Virginia C.

First, that's one meal that I can do well LOL

Second, what a great story about Mr. Imperfect. =) So he was the one who got away. I think every woman needs one of those. =)

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

annalisa,

That's a shame on the plumbing but I do understand. Well, maybe you can use the same logic to get him to fix something else. LOL

I'm with you on the heroes. *sigh*

Tina

Cherie J said...

Hi Tina! Great post! I loved your idea for getting my hubby to do what I want him to do with your plumbing example. Personally, perfection can be boring. Your hero has to have a few flaws or he will just be a cardboard figure.

Hannah Howell said...

Excellent advice. A ned to be perfect has strangled many a muse.

Janet H said...

Tina, I love the PS. I plan to try it the next time something breaks. The big wrench would probably work on just about anything, well, that or a hammer.

SiNn said...

Hi Tina i love this post most deff is something id look in to really i do the profectionisam thing alot usually when i am working on aproject its nevergood enough i beat my self up constantly till my better half pulls me away and says its fine leave it be ill be favoritingthis to reread later when i need reminded

ShawnaMoore said...

That perfectionism bug has a pretty fierce bite :) Great post and advice, Tina :)

Happy holiday wishes,

Shawna

snulfers said...

For a perfectionist letting things workout as they will is a study in patience and the ability to let go. After having a TBI it is something I work on every day.

Cameo Brown said...

Just now got to sit down and enjoy this. Thanks, Tina! Great post and discussion. :)

Tina Pavlik said...

Pat,

That's wonderful! LOL Is he trying to say he's worried about your driving? LOL Sounds like my hubby. LOL

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Cherie J, Hey! THanks for coming out. I like the comparison to a cardboard figure. You're exactly right. I've read a couple of stories (not romance) with characters like that and it doesn't make for fun or even believable reading. =)

Thanks!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Hannah Howell, Love your books btw. You're right. Without that need to be perfect I wonder how many more wonderful writers there would be giving me new stuff to pour over...

Thank you for coming out!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Janet H,

You know what else works? Sledge hammer! Jim has a 20lb sledge and it's the only time I've ever seen that man's eyes round in fear when I grabbed that thing. Don't remember what I was going to use it for now. LOL

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

SiNn,

Thank you! I'm glad you got something out of it. Just try to remember to move forward, not perfectly. =)

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Shawna! HUGS How are you? Thank you so much for coming out!

I agree. I played to that bite for a good many years. I'm an only child so I didn't have a lot of distractions when I was younger. Now I'm happily imperfect. LOL

Thank you!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Snulfers, I would say that would indeed do it. I'm so glad you're here because that doesn't sound good. Take good care of you -- and take it easy on yourself. One of the worst side effects of trying to be perfect is that inner critic. We just tell him or her to shut up already! =)

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Cameo,

Thank you so much! Seems I recently bought a Red Sage story you wrote -- it's on my ebook reader. Hoping to read it over the holiday. Thank you for coming out!

Tina

stacey said...

Thats funny way to scare your husband.i like hero's whit some flaws.because I'm not perfect and if a male is you think you could never get a guy like that to like you.
sasluvbooks(at)yahoo(dot)com

Tina Pavlik said...

Okay, I'd like to thank the fabulous Nicole North for having me over. =) And all the wonderful ladies at Fierce Romance for letting me take over the blog today. It's one of the biggest days I've had. I'm happy!

Please visit our holiday event at TRS. (http://theromancestudio.com/holiday2009/) because we still have well over 100 books to giveaway there. Really good ones. Even a couple from Nicole... You know you can't pass that up.

Okay, giving out prizes the next day hasn't been working for me well -- and I'm at two other blogs the next couple of day. LOL

SO, and this is from our prize vault and not the holiday stash, I need Amy S., Cathy M, Virginia, Virginia C. and Pat Cochran to all send an mailing address to me at tina.pavlik@gmail.com. I'll confirm in the morning and send you guys some books and promo goodies. We'll do some author prizes too -- we'll email you guys. I know where to find most of you! LOL

Thank you guys so much and have a very good night!

Tina

Tina Pavlik said...

Stacey,

You have it exactly right and the author has lost you at that point. Very very true. =)

Tina

Nicole North said...

Thanks again for blogging with us today, Tina! You are welcome anytime! I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments. And congratulations to the prize winners.

Virginia C said...

Thank you so much! This was fun : ) I have emailed my address.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Chicks of Characterization said...

Hi Tina,

I loved your post! it is sooooooo hard to turn off that internal editor and to get the little man off my shoulder who continually tells me that, "My writing sucks!" one of the many reasons I haven't gotten any of my work off my computer and into the real world.But you're so right, there is no such thing as PERFECT, not in real life or fiction!!!

Thanks so much for the pep talk! I really needed it!

Andrea

sherry said...

I hope I'm not to late. I don't know if you would call me a perfectionist or not my family just calls me hard headed and set in my ways but I like things do just a certain way. I like my heroes to have a few flaws but I don't like them to have to many flaws where they can't seem to do anything right.

sstrode@scrtc.com

Virginia said...

Thanks soo much Tina! I just sent in my info