Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist
My name is Sheryl, and I’m a perfectionist.
I was a magazine editor, for large parts of my working life. It’s a job where content is key, ideas your currency. You only get one chance a month to impress your readers, so you want to make the best issue possible.
But once the words and pictures are on the page, it’s all about the detail. The headlines and captions, spelling and grammar, the paragraph breaks, typography and the turn arrows. It’s easy to become obsessive. And I did.
(Though the perfectionist in me wants to be honest and say you wouldn’t believe this, from my output. Deadlines being deadlines, there were still plenty of mistakes!)
This is what my perfectionism has looked like, over the years.
- Great ideas for books I didn’t write because I didn’t think I knew enough.
- Repainting the bedroom walls in our first flat again and again until I got the precise shade of blue I’d imagined. Then not changing it for entire time we lived there because I couldn’t face going through the whole process again.
- An editor at a prestigious magazine once asked me for some ideas. I spent so long researching, explaining and polishing these ideas that by the time I submitted them, the editor had left the job.
- Writing a short feature and trying to interview every expert on the subject in the known universe. Then struggling to include all of their (often contradictory) views in 800 words.
- Opening files with names like ‘Draft 74’.
- Staying up all night doing last-minute tweaks and changes to a feature before handing it in to an editor who often cut those same tweaks and changes, saying I’d got bogged down in too much detail.
- Getting snappy and defensive with said editor because I’d been up all night.
- Wanting to start a blog. Not starting a blog. (For years.)
- Writing thousands of words, yet refusing to publish regularly when I did launch this blog because the tone wasn’t quite right.