Thursday, April 16, 2009


My name is Karen and I’m a perfectionist.  I like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist. Never quite over it, but always learning to laugh at this personal foible.

Perfectionism is a craving.  I think “just one more edit” or “one more attempt” and I’ll have it.  It’s a form of idolatry. My mind creates an ideal and I think I can achieve it--but it always eludes me, morphing into something slightly different each time I think I’m close. I have trouble letting go of a project. I crave that next attempt at improvement.

It’s a form of pride. Close enough is just not good enough. Others compliment. I question whether they’ve looked closely enough at the subject at hand.  I believe I can do better because---well, because it’s me. I can do it.

Like I said, I’m recovering. 

I’ve been fortunate in my writing to have some good teachers.  One high school English teacher wrote comments on our papers that would probably get her in trouble nowadays for “damaging our self esteem.”  On the contrary, she was usually right and we knew it.  She chiseled away at my writing until I was forced to uncover the gemstone in the middle of all the dirt and rock.

I’ve learned to take comments in stride--even the negative ones.  When I taught workshops on customer service, I occasionally received biting comments on my positive attitude.  The first one hurt. I was new at the job and didn’t want my supervisor to think ill of me.  Never mind that I had 75 good reviews from the same class.  Months later I began to laugh at that review.  It was so over the top, it gradually became funny.

Then there are the comments that offer constructive criticism. Criticism from someone I respect is a gift. Some criticisms have to do with opinion, which I may or may not agree with. Those force me to think about why or how I wrote on a subject.  One comment on a FaithWriters contest entry led to an online friendship with a dear lady who pointed out a glaring error.

So I was caught off guard when a Good Friday piece I wrote for a website received a rating of -2. Negative two?  This online newspaper allows readers to click a green “up” or red “down” arrow to rate articles.  I’ve had articles receive a 1 rating, maybe a 2, and sometimes a 0.  But this I had to investigate.  Scrolling down to the comments section I found....nothing.  No complaint. No idea where I didn’t connect with the readers--2 of them, obviously. Nada. Zip. Zero. Uh, make that -2.

I’ve mulled this over since Easter and found that what I feel most is embarrassment. Among the articles with 4’s and 6’s and even 0’s there stands my -2. It’s the big fat C- on the page.

No one is going to read my article again, I thought.  It’s been brushed away.  Branded.  Nothing to see here....move along.  That’s what annoys me.  I want one more edit. One more attempt.  The courtesy of one comment I can wrap this rating around.

Then I move on and laugh at myself as I shake my fist at invisible critics.

Like I said, I’m recovering. 

1 comment:

Pat said...

I can so relate! I HAVE to edit as I go along. I can't just sit and just write 'whatever.' It's just too painful - it actually hurts.

And like you said - just one more edit - always - just one more.

I call it OCED. Obsessive Compulsive Edit Disorder. : )

I'm trying though - it's not working - but I'm trying. ; )