Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 2

My name is Sandy, and I am a recovering perfectionist.

I’ve been having a hard time finishing a blog post about perfectionism, and my husband has teased that it’s because what I’ve written isn’t perfect. But there may be more than a little truth in his joke. Because one of the negative effects of perfectionism is procrastination.

Perfection doesn’t exist. And if imperfection isn’t okay, what’s a perfectionist to do? Well, nothing, obviously. Or flounder around and never finish the imperfect thing.


I don’t have difficulty discussing many of my personal creativity-hampering issues on this blog, so why the problem now? I’m guessing it’s because a while back, I mentioned to a regular reader that I was planning on writing a post about perfectionism. She told me she was looking forward to hearing what I have to say, because it’s an issue she struggles with.

A reasonable reaction on my part would be to feel flattered she believes my thoughts on the subject could help her. Instead, my inner Perfectionist sprang into action, prompted by that innocent comment. She emerged from her dark cave, scorching me with her fiery breath and clawing at my Muse as she presented her list of demands:

  1. I must write the most inspiring words ever written about the debilitating effects of perfectionism on creativity.
  2. My post must be beautiful and meaningful and important.
  3. It must be good enough to enable anyone who reads it to eradicate their perfectionist tendencies forever and go on to lengthy, fertile creative lives with no negative blocks whatsoever.
  4. It must be PERFECT.

Is it any wonder I kept putting off writing a blog post about perfectionism, discovering other topics that suddenly seemed more interesting? And that when I finally did start writing it, I found myself continually distracted and/or writing around the subject?

dragon with fire

To make matters worse, my Perfectionist is sneaky. I didn’t consciously realize she was doing all this. Yes, I remember momentarily thinking “oh, I better write something really good, then” after the aforementioned comment by my blog reader friend. But I quickly forgot about it. Meanwhile, my Perfectionist was poking her head out of her lair, exhaling her unhealthy, fiery breath all over me while I went about my life, unaware of her damaging presence.

But I gradually began to notice her. My evasive maneuvers to avoid writing the post became clear to me. And, once I forced myself to start writing, my uncharacteristic inability to complete my thoughts brought the invisible Perfectionist into full view.

It’s been quite a battle wrestling that ferocious dragon back into her cave. How did I do it? By writing what you’ve just read. By confessing I’m not perfect—to you and to myself. By being willing to accept the run-on sentences and typos and imprefect grammar and less-than-profound thoughts that appear in my writing.

I do have more to say about perfectionism in general, and I’ll try to write something coherent about it soon. But I felt it might be helpful to share my personal struggle here first.

And thank you to that unnamed regular reader and friend who told me you were looking forward to my perfectionism post. Because the situation forced me to have an open battle with my lifelong nemesis, the Perfectionist Dragon, thereby weakening her just a little bit more. And, while I haven’t been able to write some magical perfect post that will eradicate your perfectionism, maybe you’ll feel a little better knowing my dragon’s just as big as yours.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World,


8 Responses to “Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 2”

  1. 1 Gabriella September 27, 2009 at 9:54 am


    I love the images you choose for your entries.

    Have you found that setting a time aside to work on a certain project helps to battle perfectionism/procrastination?

    It seems to help me, but then I am working on a novel, and not on many continuous writing projects. And I don’t do it consistently either…

    • 2 stranglingmymuse September 27, 2009 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks, Gabriella — I enjoy trying to find images that relate to the posts metaphorically, when I can.

      I actually don’t think I have a huge problem with perfectionism any more, but this was one time when it flared up. For me, I think I just need to become aware of the issue and then work through it. I wasn’t having trouble with writing in general, but with completing a post on perfectionism.

      I do think scheduling time for writing or other creativity can be a big help with various blocks, especially procrastination.


  2. 3 slacker-chick September 28, 2009 at 8:30 am

    I’m cured! Ok, no, just trying to make you feel better because your post made me feel better – it was so spot on! Actually, I think blogging for the last several months has helped me wrestle my perfectionism dragon to the ground (some will say, “yeah, we can tell!” whatevs) the dragon is still there, of course, but I’m able to just roll my eyes at it and is slinks away. But I better print your posts and tack them to my wall when I begin NaNoWriMo as a reminder!

    (I also love the images you find for your posts.)

  3. 4 K a b l o o e y September 28, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Oh Sh*t, I really hope I didn’t launch the fire-breather. Was it me? Because I’m sure I would have told you I was looking forward to a post about procrastination, unless of course I found a million and three things to do in my house and then just forgot to write to you.

    But then, I know from your comments that a lot of us find you inspiring and use your prompts and advice to get unstuck. But WAIT A MINUTE. What am I doing? Adding more pressure. Hmmm. You know Sandy, I’m kind of neutral about your blog, really. I can take it or leave it; ho hum. No pressure. Try your best, or not. Whatevs.

    Actually, you really did nail the way those dragons work. Thanks again. And both of those pictures were beautiful. Not that the next ones have to be…

  4. 5 stranglingmymuse September 28, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    We’ll just keep the unnamed regular reader anonymous, okay? And since she helped me, it’s a GOOD thing. Really.

    Rochelle, I’ve also found blogging has helped me slap down my lingering perfectionism and procrastination. (With the occasional flare-up, obviously.) And if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, you’ll really have to let go of perfectionism, punctuation, sentences that have meaning, etc. I speak from experience — I did it last year and found it to be an interesting experiment in plotting, pacing, and allowing myself to write complete drivel. (But I mean that in a good way…)

    Kablooey, if I’m inspiring people, I hope it’s because I struggle with these things as much as anyone. Not because I’m some kind of uber-writer no one could realistically hope to become. ‘Cause as much as I’d love for everyone to think I’m PERFECT…uh oh, here comes that dragon again…better go drive her back into her cave…


  1. 1 POST—Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 3 « Strangling My Muse Trackback on October 3, 2009 at 3:47 am
  2. 2 Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 3 « Strangling My Muse Trackback on October 28, 2010 at 6:05 am
  3. 3 Creativity Freebies for May « Strangling My Muse Trackback on May 1, 2011 at 7:06 am

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