Perfeckshun (Lifehacking at 50+)

Paradox #2. This is gonna be short, because I don’t know how to answer the question.

I’m a writer, and writers are always told, “your work must be as perfect as you can get it before you submit it. Other, better writers are submitting too, and you must outshine them to be produced/published.”

But on the other hand, we’re also told, “don’t let the tyranny of perfection get in your way. Endless revision can be the death of your work. Get it out there into the marketplace.”

Which is right? I’ve touched on this before when I talked about When Is Good Enough Good Enough. But Mom always said, any job worth doing is worth doing right, so I’m still looking at it.

And because of Mom, I’ve been a perfectionist all my life. Is it holding me back? I have, on occasion (usually when faced with an emergency deadline), submitted substandard work, only to find I’ve shot myself in the foot – ended up worse off than if I had missed the deadline, or not submitted at all. Because in submitting less-than-perfect work, I’ve ruined my reputation with too many decision-makers by turning in the easy reach, the hastily-put-together, the flat and pedestrian, rather than saying, “I can’t meet your cutoff date.” So I agonize over perfection with each submission, and while I don’t think I tarnish my name much any more, I wonder if I’m obsessing over things like using “and” instead of “but.”

Has being a perfectionist ever held you back? Have you knowingly submitted substandard work, and how did that turn out for you? If it worked, what was the key element that overcame the perfection gaps?

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