Starting Things

Ignoring Your Inner Perfectionist

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My "real work" rarely looks this casual. It's messy and done during stolen half-hours between childcare and household chores and living life.

If you’ve ever delayed starting a project, or else let something languish and lie unfinished for months, then this article is for you.

Sometimes — ok, often — I think I’m the most undisciplined writer in the world. (There, you’ve just met my inner critic.)

I have Hilroy notebooks from when I was twelve and thirteen years old with the beginnings of stories … 1-2 pages of enthusiastic starts, followed by 60 blank lined pages.

I have lists of story and article ideas that I’ve never returned to.

And I have one ginormous project, closer to my heart than all the rest, which I’ve abandoned twice and have finally decided to resume in earnest. And complete.

Not working on it has become more painful than whatever fear has been holding me back.

So let this be my public declaration: for the foreseeable future, my focus is writing about my grandparents’ coffee plantation in East Africa during the 1930s is my priority.


My “real work” rarely looks this casual. It’s messy and done during stolen half-hours between childcare and household chores and living life.

My reasons for delaying a start are many. Why not wait until tomorrow? You’ll have the whole day; you can start first thing in the morning, once the kids are off to school. You know you work best in the mornings.

So says the little critic in my head that always tries to tempt me from work; to convince me I need to wait until the conditions are perfect, since that will surely lead to better work.

But I’ve learned her tricks.

The timing will never be right; and on the rare occasion the timing is perfect, something usually goes wrong.

In other words, the perfect time is only ever NOW.

No rationalizing, no excuses.

No delaying.

And so I’ve resolved to just put one foot in front of the other, write one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time, and start. And keep going. And going. And going.

After all, I know that the process of working towards something is so much more rewarding than the outcome.


So here I am, at 2pm on a Monday. In a little over an hour I need to pick up my youngest from preschool. Hardly enough time for me to really get “into” something.

I spent the morning getting my two older sons settled into their new school. Getting them outfitted in their new uniforms, getting their bussing sorted out. Meeting the teachers.

Dirty dishes are piled up around the kitchen sink.

But here I am, opening up a long-abandoned folder and beginning the painful work of reacquainting myself with estranged places and people. Figuring out where I left off, where I can pick up from.

It could be Wednesday, it could be Friday; it could be noon, or close to dinner time. It could be the middle of March.

But if you’ve figured out what your passion is, if you feel called to do something, then chances are the world needs that offering. And that makes your work more important than laundry or dishes, more important than your ego’s attempts for comfort and familiarity.

Your turn:

What have been avoiding doing? How would you feel if you were taking steps towards your goal a little every day or week? How do you feel not answering that call? Who would you impact positively by completing your project?

Head over to the blog and let me know in the comments.

And if know someone who might find this useful, please share it. I’d be so grateful.

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