Do you ever decide not to do something because you think it could never turn out as well as you imagine?
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“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” – Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird
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I remember staring at the garden plot in our yard last April. There is no way this is going to turn out well, I thought to myself, thinking of all the plants I had killed in my lifetime, just by looking at them. I wanted the garden to be perfect; I didn’t want a garden, I wanted Eden. I wanted tomatoes the size of bowling balls. I would pick every.single.weed. I would build a fence around my garden. The garden would be so perfect that we would live off it for the summer, spending no money on food.
I turned my back and walked away. Too much pressure.
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Later, I decided to go ahead with it anyway. The broccoli got eaten by little yellow and black worms (the devils!), just before it was ready to be harvested. Most of the spinach developed small holes. The second batch of lettuce tasted bitter. The corn was attacked and decimated.
But we got some awesome zuchini and carrots and the first batch of lettuce was delicious. We had so many huge cucumbers that we gave many of them away. We probably got a few hundred tomatoes. The bell peppers did well. We had enough Thai chilis to affect the importation of chilis from Thailand. The habanera peppers nearly killed us, they were so hot and delicious.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was great. It was fun. It was a garden.
The seeds we planted magically transformed into things we could eat.
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Write already. Who cares if the first draft is like a muddy puddle. The second draft will be good, the third draft even better.
Go ahead and write. It doesn’t matter if it stinks. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You have the words in your head, the ideas, the storyline. Don’t let perfectionism keep you stranded in that place. It’s a rotten place, when you turn your back on all that untilled ground.
5 Replies to “How Writing is Giving Yourself Permission to Plant An Imperfect Garden”
Good stuff … I’m on my umpteeth rewrite/edit of my memoir and while I can tell it’s better now, I still have work to do and sometimes I want to quit. Thanks again for this.
Keep going Janet! You’ve got a great story.
This post came at exactly the right time. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I tend to go a long way toward a goal, but then chicken out when it’s really time to wrap it up. Fear of failure, even fear of success — whatever it is, it keeps me from just flat out pursuing things I want to do.
Really, I needed this. Thanks so much.
Glad to hear it Alise.
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