More on Procrastination vs. Perfectionism

I’ve become intrigued by the concept of procrastination from perfectionism. Found more articles on the subject online and thought I’d share a few highlights:

This from The Problem of Procrastination

What is perfectionism, then? Perfectionism is a form of rigidity or inflexibility that is marked by three major characteristics: (1) The intense desire to jump in and do things yourself because others just can’t do it right; (2) the insistent attitude that you wouldn’t even start on something if you can’t do it well; and (3) the profound need for closure, indicated by agitation or discomfort should something be left “hanging”. Each of these characteristics “drives” the perfectionist to procrastinate. For perfectionistic procrastinators, the first step in dealing with procrastination is acknowledging and disliking these three basic tendencies. Then practical solutions can be applied systematically.

From: Overcoming Procrastination by Steve Pavlina

A third type of erroneous thinking that leads to procrastination is perfectionism. Thinking that you must do the job perfectly the first try will likely prevent you from ever getting started. Believing that you must do something perfectly is a recipe for stress, and you’ll associate that stress with the task and thus condition yourself to avoid it. You then end up putting the task off to the last possible minute, so that you finally have a way out of this trap. Now there isn’t enough time to do the job perfectly, so you’re off the hook because you can tell yourself that you could have been perfect if you only had more time. But if you have no specific deadline for a task, perfectionism can cause you to delay indefinitely. If you’ve never even started that project you always wanted to do really well, could perfectionism be holding you back?

The solution to perfectionism is to give yourself permission to be human. Have you ever used a piece of software that you consider to be perfect in every way? I doubt it. Realize that an imperfect job completed today is always superior to the perfect job delayed indefinitely. Perfectionism is also closely connected to thinking of the task as one big whole. Replace that one big perfectly completed task in your mind with one small imperfect first step. Your first draft can be very, very rough. You are always free to revise it again and again. For example, if you want to write a 5000-word article, feel free let your first draft be only 100 words if it helps you get started. That’s less than the length of this paragraph.

I’m thinking one of the reasons I turned to writing more short fiction than book length is my problem with leaving the story hanging. I end up wanting to write straight through and get frustrated with anyone or anything that gets in the way. This doesn’t make for a nice Rinda sometimes. But it can be mentally debilitating in the extreme. Thankfully, I’ve grown up a bit and learned to deal with this locular lifestyle most of us lead. Not ideal for someone who would rather devote mountains of time to reading and writing, but necessary since I do have a family and have to live.

A friend asked if this blog was another form of procrastination for me. Smart ass. But she had a point. Yes and no. Yes, because of course, I could be working on a paying project right now. No, because as most writers I have a lot of words, ideas, just plain “things” to share and this is a healthy outlet. I originally set up this blog for two reasons. One, I needed another way to publicize my online shops and my writing. But two, the biggie, I was tired of being afraid. Spent most of my life worrying about what others think — if you knew of my extended family, you would get it — big time — so, this was my way of getting myself out there. Putting out feelers to see how I handle reaction or rejection.

Speaking of which, I did come across a “reaction” to my short story, Retribution, which can be found here Surreal Magazine . It’s not a good reaction and considering my story is flash fiction, I’m not sure the premise was understood exactly, but hey, this is what I was after, right? HorrorScope: Review: Surreal Magazine #4


About Rinda Elliott

Writer.I love unusual stories and credit growing up in a family of curious life-lovers who moved all over the country. Books and movies full of fantasy, science fiction and romance kept us amused, especially in some of the stranger places. For years, I tried to separate my darker side with my humorous and romantic one. I published short fiction, but things really started happening when I gave in and mixed it up. When not lost in fiction, I love making wine, collecting music, gaming and spending time with my husband and two children. I’m represented by Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Agency.
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9 Responses to More on Procrastination vs. Perfectionism

  1. X. Dell says:

    I’d add a fourth characteristic of perfection: the fear or knowledge that your work will be judged by a double standard.

    Am I revealing too much of myself here?

    Actually, I think you got one of the more positive reviews from Horror Scope. Considering that it’s an Aussie page, maybe there’s some sort of Correalis (sp?) effect that means they liked your story and the rest of the issue.

  2. Let’s go with that explanation. Like it.

  3. Another great post 🙂

    I love the Gandhi quote.

  4. Laura says:

    “…you’ll automatically feel a sense of resentment and rebellion.” I think this is my problem more than perfectionism. I hate doing things people tell me to do, even if I would’ve done it anyway.

  5. This is a great topic.

    Thanks for the info. 🙂

  6. Dana Pollard says:

    Rinda, I SO like the way you think… and research! hehe I now have ammo for when the hubby brings up the laundry pile.

    “Sweetie Man, if I can’t do the laundry the way I need to (perfectly), then I can’t do it.”

    Sesriously though. I do fall into this category.

  7. Betty S says:

    I think this would make a great program or workshop.

    “Perfectionism/Procrastination and the Writier”

  8. Marie from SOUND OF MUSIC said something similar in the song I HAVE CONFIDENCE:
    Strength doesn’t lie in numbers. Strength doesn’t lie in wealth. Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers. When you wake up, Wake Up!”

    Ghandi sounds more impressive. 😉

  9. Kelli!!!! I’ve missed you. Checked your blog daily to see how you’re feeling. Mandy and I want to meet you for lunch– she has a new job so it would be a Saturday thing.

    I love reading Ghandi.

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