Perfectionism: A Great Muse-Strangler, Part 2

This week I’m rerunning my series on perfectionism, which struck quite a chord with readers last year. Here’s the second installment:

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,


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

  1. 1 Amy October 28, 2010 at 9:23 am

    I agree! I have found that too–whatever you fear, it’s best to focus a bright eye on it and then talk about it. It takes away its power. Well said. I am with you, too, in struggling with perfectionism in writing. And in life. 🙂 But I do think that knowing that is half the battle. Good luck!

    • 2 stranglingmymuse October 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Amy. It’s always nice to know that many of us struggle with the same things, isn’t it? Best of luck with your writing and with allowing imperfection in!


  2. 3 amna October 28, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Only a few days back I wrote a post on my blog confessing being a procrastinator..that I am forever looking for the perfect day, time etc. when my creativity will come forth like a storm and all will be released in an astonishing master piece.sigh! It is the very first time I am realizing that I am a perfectionist house is a living proof of it..all the jobs I have held over the years..everything was perfect, still is..except for my art practice which I never practice (despite having a formal education in arts) because I have been scared of letting myself down by not liking what I produce..its sad, isn’t it?
    I am subscribing to your wonderful blog..
    Cheers 🙂

    • 4 stranglingmymuse October 29, 2010 at 4:00 pm

      Thanks for subscribing, Amna! And thanks for sharing part of your story here, and on the next post. So many of us creative people put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect that we become paralyzed and do nothing. It’s very common, and I think becoming aware of it and talking about it really helps to tame the dragon!

      Best of luck to you in your creative endeavors!


  3. 5 Jule1 October 28, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Funneee! I loved the list of demands. I think your dragon and my dragon hang out and plot stuff together! All too familiar. Write on!

    • 6 stranglingmymuse October 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm

      Maybe we need to find the dragon coffee klatch and set off a bomb! Thanks for commenting here and on the next post — and good luck with your voice work.


  4. 7 crazygoangirl October 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Never thought of perfectionism as a dragon before, rather thought of her (no clue as to why I settled on the female gender)as an Evil Witch…you know the one who turns everything she touches into ice? So many faces of one disease!

    Thanks for sharing!

  1. 1 Perfectionism « Joel's Self Publishing Trackback on November 1, 2010 at 4:25 am

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