"Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."
Then, Cohen's words were a promise to me. I knew perfectionism to be soul killing and painful. I’d structured my life around the idea that I was an artist, a writer, a person who made things. I had the time and some energy. I was meeting with my kick-ass therapist once a week, and the meds were doing their thing. If I didn’t make things now, would I ever? Bad Dawn. Bad.
Forget your perfect offering.
I sang it, preached it, and finally, I did it. Retched and spit out my imperfect thing. Hid.
Here is the embarrassing part of this story. Pretty much every time I pressed through the agony of releasing my ugly babies into the world, something really good happened. It was horrible, and amazing.
No creation without light. No light without cracks.
These days, I live more like I work at a place called Cracked Window Studios. I still have an estimated 3,543 moments each day where I have to let go of the urge to make something perfect. I still lose the occasional hour or afternoon when I get sucked into the perfectionism vortex.
But don't be discouraged. 3,453 represents progress! Repetition is required to create new neural pathways in the brain. Neuroplasticity: It's science! So exciting!
Part of living in the cracks is recognizing how much help I need with so many things. So I try to accept it semi-gracefully when I know I'm not going to finish a particular writing assignment without my colleague Jasmine sitting across from me, doling out the occasional brilliant insight, cutting my word count in half, and talking me down until I'm able to hit the send button (or take whatever other horrible/wonderful step signifies closure).
Which reminds me. The best side effect EVER of releasing perfectionism is the opportunity to collaborate with amazing people. Even collaboration with OK people can sometimes be helpful. Collaboration requires that I release work into the hands of others while it still deeply embarrasses me. I risk annoying people with my over exuberance, or having too many ideas, or (ack!) cheesy ideas!*
Sometimes, even just pretending to collaborate helps. If I send a piece of writing to a friend, and life happens, and she doesn’t get back to me, it’s usually ok, even if I’m on a deadline. It’s like having an imaginary friend who doesn’t hate my work as much as I do. I’m soothed when I picture my words relaxing in the inbox of an intelligent, thoughtful person. I know it’s been confusing in the past when people have tried to apologize to me about not being back in touch, and I’ve said, “No, you did help. Thank you.”
Still, get a good, sweet, collaboration going, and it softens the earth, and makes digging those new neural pathways a bit easier. Collaboration is momentum. It's not always easy, and some people really don't like it. Collaboration is definitely something I want to write more about. Maybe I can get my trusty gang of collaborators to chime in. (Was it as good for you as it was for me? Was it???)
I don’t have to try real hard to reveal my imperfections to the world. It turns out I’m a natural. But from the beginning of the production process, I’ve made the decision to share pieces of Bipolar Girl Rules the World + Other Stories with audiences while still a work-in-progress. Not so much with people I know well, because that would be terrifying. But with other people, who live further away.
It’s all a process.
*How did "cheesy” become my worst case scenario critique? What's yours?
Want to JOIN the FIGHT Against the Scourge of Perfectionism Facing Our Nation? Check out the still-in-progress Bipolar Girl animated comic Manifesto of the 80% to learn more!