Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Balancing Writing & Life—The World Rewards Finishers NOT Perfection

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons
Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

The world around us is always pushing this notion of “perfection” and, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder what “reality” looks like. All the models are tall and thin and young with poofy lips (and men have their own variety of the super model stereotype). They have fabulous clothes and new cars and go on expensive vacations.

Even our homes! When I look around my house that’s littered with toys, my sink full of dishes and two baskets full of laundry (even though I just DID laundry) I wonder what a real home is supposed to look like? Where do I fit? Sure NOT on Pinterest.

Granted, there are areas I KNOW I am slacking (*cough* Christmas tree is STILL standing) and let’s not talk about the state of my drawers and closets. But, I generally (when the washer ISN’T broken) wash the sheets 1-2 times a week. I make the beds. I clean the toilets all the time because Spawn is 4 and we are still working on AIM.

Pippa claims she is "helping" with laundry. Right.
Pippa claims she is “helping” with laundry. Right.

But I am nowhere near the homes in magazines or on TV, even though I live in an apron. I will never wear skinny jeans and I am unwilling to go into crushing debt to keep up with a world who portrays a “reality” that is geared to make me emotional, make me feel inferior and therefore buy stuff. Or work more, do more, more, more, more.

I live in my apron only usually no makeup and hair in a scrunch-ee
I live in my apron, but usually no makeup and hair in a scrunch-ee.

Why do I bring this up?

Because perfect is an illusion. There is no such thing. Our society has gotten into this GO BIG OR GO HOME attitude, and sure, that might be okay in one or two aspects of our lives…but ALL OF IT? I cannot look like a fitness model, write 4 novels a year, have perfect social media, make crafts with my kid, volunteer, drive a BMW and have a house that should be featured on HGTV.

Maybe you can. I can’t and won’t. Not worth it.

Thus, we need to list our priorities and it is okay to let the other stuff be less than perfect. But, in light of this argument, I also want to say this isn’t a pass to be lazy or mediocre. We should strive for that nice healthy balance. When we get out of balance, something or someone will suffer. I have to be careful I don’t get so focused on writing and business and cleaning that I forget to be a mom.

I have to take out time to run with Spawn through the house with NERF guns looking for zombies. The dishes will be there. I know. I’ve tested this hoping they’d disappear but they apparently mated and made more.

Writing

You want to be a writer? Great. Here’s the good news. If you’re writing, you’re already a writer so stop the angst. Just do it. This is one of the reasons I am such a huge fan of blogging. Writers write.

My mom can post on Facebook and The Spawn has been known to tweet, but neither of them blog….because they aren’t writers. Blogging is training for the professional pace.

Blogging is THE most stable form of social media and it trains us to be better writers. We can write leaner, meaner, faster and commit. No Writer Warden is going to show up and take us to jail if we don’t blog/write. To be professional, we have to be good at keeping and meeting self-imposed deadlines. Not only does blogging make us better writers and create a stable platform, it also trains those self-discipline muscles.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Even if you don’t blog, commit to writing something daily. Write a 100 words, then work up to 200 then 500. When I started, 1000 words was SO HARD, so I started with 100, but it was a beginning and we all start somewhere. The trick is to START.

Give Grace

I’ve read writing books and inspirational/leadership books that I wanted to punch. The last leadership book I read, the author talked about the importance of taking time to think, how he goes to his office and just sits in the quiet and thinks for an hour by himself in his special thinking chair. How cute.

I can’t even go PEE alone. 99% of the time, I have two cats and a dog fighting for attention while The Spawn hits me with a sword or begs me to help him level up on Angry Birds.

Can I JUST go to the BATHROOM….ALONE?

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.51.25 AM

Whenever I hear of an author who recommends traveling to a location for a book and staying there a month or two to absorb the experience? I think, “Sure. Uh huh.” And this isn’t to be negative, because I do have that as a goal. But, for most of us, that won’t be reality for a long time, if ever. But we still have to get the words on the page. We might have to use Google Earth, Google Images, or tweet a friend in the UK to help be our eyes and help us with setting and dialogue.

And the point of all of this is the best time to do anything is NOW. Just something. Don’t wait to be perfect. Just start. Baby steps are steps and one of the reasons I feel so many of us fail is because we buy into the lie that those tiny steps don’t count. That if we can’t GO BIG, we aren’t trying hard enough. That’s ridiculous and wrong.

Learn to SHIP

Blogging trains perfection out of us. Ship. Too many blogs falter and countless books are never finished because we’re too focused on perfection. There’s no perfect book. I could win a Pulitzer and still have people who hate my book.

Finished books are far more valuable than perfect ones.

The house? Hey, if I can keep from making an episode of Hoarders? Score! Sure, my goal is to organize a drawer a day, weekok month. But I can make my bed. My finances? My goal is to be completely debt free. I can start by not making more debt. For instance, I’m going to the Laundromat until I can save for a new washer.

My body?

I already eat clean, because I have a zillion food allergies. But, I haven’t been working out like I used to. Why? Because I was an IDIOT. I was caught up in the GO BIG OR GO HOME and gave myself such bad tendonitis that I had to lay off all exercise, other than maybe walking or yoga, for over a YEAR to fully heal.

I decided this weekend to revisit the p90X workout. I’ve done it before but I pushed too hard and injured myself. This morning, even though The Spawn was up all night and I had no sleep, I got up to my alarm and started. Did I do the whole thing perfectly? Nope. Was kind of a flabby train wreck, but I did it.

The trick to all of this is to:

  • Contemplate what is TRULY important. Might have to sacrifice the immaculate house for a finished novel.
  • Make a plan and one that is BALANCED. Somewhere between mediocrity and insanity is a nice happy place.
  • Give permission for failure. Failure teaches far more than success ever has.
  • Learn to ship.
  • Be a finisher. My mantra is “The world rewards finishers not perfection.”
  • Finish small and eventually we’ll finish big.
  • Just start. If we have a hiccup? Life blows up? Just start again. Simple.

I want all of you to reach your dreams and still have sanity, friends and a happy relationship/marriage/family. No perfectly clean house, no amount of money, no number of best-selling books can take the place of what’s really important. But, beyond that? REACH.

Ignore a world that’s out to tell you you aren’t trying hard enough and you aren’t good enough. YOU ARE. One foot in front of the other and celebrate the little things, because all the universe is constructed of tiny things ;).

The largest, brightest star is still made up of tiny atoms of Hydrogen and Helium. Every book is made up of a combination of 26 letters. Every healthy body is the cumulation of small, sound choices. Baby steps. Relish them and celebrate them.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Where do you struggle? Are you bad about All-or-Nothing Thinking, too? Do you tend to go to extremes, either overdoing or being a tool slacker (raises hand)? What ways do you keep yourself pushing on? How do you handle setbacks?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

WANACon Winners

Rafflecopter Winners who won a REFUNDED Conference Fee

FREE WANACon Registration:

  • Kathy Wagoner
  • MJ Pullen
  • Kelley Conrad

Working on refunds today. CONGRATULATIONS!

Here are the three winners for MY Contest:

  • Grand Prize of Book/Brand Combo: Gry Ranfelt
  • Book Prize: Jacquie Biggar
  • Branding Prize: Shan Jeniah Burton

132 thoughts on “Balancing Writing & Life—The World Rewards Finishers NOT Perfection”

  1. kks21kks21

    Great post. I always struggle with perfection. The truth is that it’s not worth it. Still,it’s a hard habit to shake

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  2. Fran MacilveyFran Macilvey

    Okay, maybe I missed it, but can you remind me what SHIP is? Did you write about this last time and I forgot? Sorry! xxx ;-))

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      Just get it out there. Literally….ship. Let it go. Publish the blog even though it isn’t worthy of a Pulitzer. Move on to the next book and then the next. Keep moving forward :D.

      Reply
      February 24, 2014
      • Fran MacilveyFran Macilvey

        Yes, thanks, that is just perfect. I’ll remember that! xx :-))

        Reply
        February 24, 2014
  3. Joe BradshawJoe Bradshaw

    Kristen I truly enjoyed this post as well as all you choose to share… Thank you for sharing your thoughts and inspiration. 🙂 🙂 Joe

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  4. Catherine JohnsonCatherine Johnson

    Fran, ship just means get it published (sent on the ship) don’t stay in the harbour forever.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  5. Stephanie ScottStephanie Scott

    I’ve been a regular commenter on various message forums since the year 2000. It really helps to hone your opinions by connecting with smart people; even pop culture criticism (my current fave hang out is AV Club’s comment threads–wickedly smart commentary about all things TV and media). It’s easy to click Like on Facebook–the work is done, you don’t even need to comment. But to go further to express an opinion, what makes something work and why? Can you state this succinctly? Comment threads like on this blog foster good conversation. Be wary of which sites you go to; I avoid those that are constantly trolled.

    Also, in light of perfect on TV, I imagine the Real Housewives franchise believe themselves to be. Please ladies, don’t do that to your face. A woman in her 30s should not look like a wax figure with a frozen face. That’s not perfect, it’s sad (faces are meant to move! And express things!)

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
    • Stephanie ScottStephanie Scott

      To clarify my own comment, most of the “Housewives” are older, but when watching with a friend, she mentioned one of the cast as being in early 30s and I just could not believe it. Botox/plastic surgery made her look 10 years older at least. I just don’t get it!

      Reply
      February 24, 2014
  6. Tony Lavely (@tlavely)Tony Lavely (@tlavely)

    Too late to vote Kristen. Closed 2/21.
    But don’t let that stop you… Not that I think it would!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      Booo. Oh well. Will edit that out. I thought it was today. WANACon has me loopy. Thanks though.

      Reply
      February 24, 2014
  7. coldhandboyackcoldhandboyack

    I really need this today. I spent a lot of time doubting myself this weekend. Thanks.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  8. Gyan Devi (@ScholarshipsOrg)Gyan Devi (@ScholarshipsOrg)

    The timing of this post couldn’t be more perfect. I just got off the phone with my co-author and we spent most of today’s weekly meeting on this issue. Great advice!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  9. Catherine JohnsonCatherine Johnson

    I definitely don’t struggle with perfection. Have you seen my illustrations lol. When you are in the midst of writing challenges and submitting to agents, learning craft, people can think you’re not doing enough because there are no results to see. Once you leave traditional behind it’s dead easy to appear productive because now you have a bunch of manuscripts to publish. I would expect the perfectionist mentality to be an issue with traditional folk. A hold up on the self-pub front is probably an oh crap how do I do this?

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  10. JoAnne PotterJoAnne Potter

    I went to vote for you. I really did. Not only because I have saved and printed more of your blogs than any other, PERIOD, but because you made me laugh again. When I was in your place, I couldn’t pee alone, either. Still laughing. And, my first book is going out to agents, now. And it’s not perfect.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  11. saralitchfieldsaralitchfield

    I think it is *so* much more important to hunt down the zombies in the house than do the dishes. The dishes may multiply like rabbits – but at least they don’t eat you!

    Thank you for a wonderful WANACon – so jealous of the prize-winners! So lucky there’s so much advice and teaching in your blog, the WANACon sessions and your book, that there are really no losers!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  12. Lori RobinettLori Robinett

    Great post. Need to make this my mantra. Congrats to the winners (and thanks, Kristin, for coordinating a great conference!)
    (side note: I once took my Christmas tree down in April.)

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  13. Caffe MaggieatoCaffe Maggieato

    “The world rewards finishers not perfection.” – Thanks for that! I often struggle as I can’t seem to let a piece of crappy writing go, which means nothing gets done. I definitely need to keep reminding myself that little by little, something can be achieved. I think I’m just impatient like that with unrealistic expectations. Thanks for a wonderful post!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  14. HarliqueenHarliqueen

    A very motivating post! I agree with it all, especially with just getting something written everyday, even just a few words 🙂

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  15. Elke FeuerElke Feuer

    Balance what’s that? LOL! I have a tendency to take on too much and burn myself out! This year I promised myself I would find balance by: keep going if I stumble and fall behind, do what I can and not feel guilty if I can’t get it all done, and prioritize. Certain things can wait without worrying the world will come to an end if they don’t get done.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  16. Keith ChanningKeith Channing

    Great balancing article. I have been told for years, and believed, that “the good is often the enemy of the best”. That appeals to my perfectionist leanings and (I hope) mild OCD. Perhaps my mantra should be “It’s OK to be OK”, or something like that. Isaac Asimov said, “Above all, never think you’re not good enough. Never think that. In life people will take you at your own reckoning.” Perhaps I should have remembered that, rather than his three laws of robotics.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  17. Gerri BrousseauGerri Brousseau

    Loved this blog. You had me laughing out loud! Can totally relate to so many things you said, especially going to the bathroom alone. Thanks for the laugh. I needed it!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  18. Melissa LewickiMelissa Lewicki

    I like that the fact that you wrote this post and it wasn’t perfect (voting date is past). You just modeled the behavior you want us to embrace! Great post. Thanks.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      Unintentional, but YAY. LOL. I am so FRIED from WANACon ha ha ha ha ha ha. See? I am FAR from perfect. FAAAAAARRRRR.

      Reply
      February 24, 2014
  19. SueSue

    Perfectly timed- we are in the process of selling our home and purchasing a new one and my free time has been filled with inspectors, appraisers, radon testers, bankers, and appliance sales people. Oh and packing. Plus my day job, taxes, managing my daughter (long story), the dogs, exercise, and occasional household chores. I haven’t gotten a blog post out in over a week, missing my self imposed deadline. So I was “starting again” and Perfection has been a wall in front of me. I thought I got rid of that guy but he creeps back in when I am looking the other way. Bastard. So thanks for the reminder- I surely needed this today!
    Sue
    PS- voting for you for sure. 🙂

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  20. Wing DunhamWing Dunham

    Would definitely have voted for you but the deadline is long gone. Sob. Next time?

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  21. laneswiftlaneswift

    I really needed this kind of inspiration today. I often feel like I should have done everything yesterday and that I’ve done nothing good enough. Thank you. Your advice is sound and practical and do-able!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  22. swiveltamswiveltam

    WOW! Hit home again. Finding the balance is hard. I laughed out loud at the 99% of the time I can’t pee alone. That’s me. I’m a mom and work outside the home and am trying to write, be in writer’s groups, blog and follow wonderful people like you. Thank you!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  23. Gry RanfeltGry Ranfelt

    O.O
    I’m so happy I just ran through the house twice. And then I called my brother to shout at him that I had the best news for the entire YEAR and he was all cool, saying “bring it” in an Arnold Schwarzenegger “I’ll be back” tone.
    I’m so damn grateful I can’t even fully express it yet!
    I promise to be worthy of it and get as much out of it as possible! So many other people wanted to/could have gotten it and it wouldn’t be fair to them if I didn’t fully appreciate this opportunity!

    Wow, no smileys. I really am overwhelmed.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  24. Denise Devine MeinstadDenise Devine Meinstad

    Thank you for the reminder! Society keeps telling us to look like movie stars and live like millionaires, but frankly, it’s all a waste of time because that is not realistic. Be yourself, be focused on your goals and be happy.

    BTW–my Christmas tree is still standing, too, so I had to laugh when I read that. Besides working a FT job, I’m trying to do a final edit on two books, format them to Kindle, learn about ISBNs and barcodes and figure out how to format both for Createspace. So the tree just might be there for a while. I just shut the doors to the living room and ignore it.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  25. Abdul JAbdul J

    I would be careful with p90x, it definitely overdoes the training element and I know people who have injured themselves on it (but I suppose you can find people hurting themselves doing anything) so perhaps look at something less strenuous and more efficient? Having said that, it does get good results too.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      Ironically, I didn’t injure myself with the P90X. I did it working in the yard and painting while doing P90X. Um, some things we should just invest in…a POWER MOWER, especially when you are short. Tore up elbows and wrists mowing :P. I was SO BUMMED, too because I was just starting to look kinda awesome, LOL.

      Reply
      February 24, 2014
  26. LeneLene

    just what I needed! I’m hopelessly overwhelmed with everything, trying to do it all and not succeeding. Also not writing on my book, because I never have time to write a chapter. So maybe it’s time to go back to the beginning and write a paragraph or even just a sentence every day. To start focusing on the 70,000 words that I haven’t yet written and start focusing on the 10 words I can write today.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  27. symplysilentsymplysilent

    Kristen; Thank you for making me think. I’m in the doldrums with family problems, and I am pulling my hair out, ready to run away. Maybe my way back is on my WIP. Or, maybe I should commit to posting something on my blog every day, although I’ve tried to keep the vast majority of my posts as stories. Thank you again, Silent

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  28. baileyboatcatbaileyboatcat

    Oh my human and I can relate! We find it very difficult to ‘keep up’. When the sabbatical starts in April and my human starts writing full-time I’m sure things will be easier, but maybe the pressure will be more… Who knows we’re just going to make the most of the year to come!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  29. Elena LinvilleElena Linville

    “Learn to Ship” – loved that idea! One of the biggest commitments I took when I decided to stop thinking about being a writer and actually being one was to start a blog and write one post a week, rain or shine. It can be challenging, but It’s true that it trains you. The other commitment is to write at least 100 a day, every day. I admit that I failed a couple times on that last one, but I never skipped more than a day yet.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  30. hemmingplayhemmingplay

    Excellent post. Back in ancient times, I worked at a daily newspaper. That taught me to write it, edit fast and ship it better than any other experience I’ve ever had. And every day, standing on the loading dock watching as we took the product of a multimillion dollar printing plant and professionals and handed it over to winos and teenagers to deliver — that’s another story — I usually wanted to have them bring it all back because I KNEW there were at least 50 mistakes in it that would make my phone ring the next day. But we kept moving forward. Forgive yourself, resolve to to it better the next day, and move on.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  31. wildcat1997wildcat1997

    I like what you have to say here. According to advertising we will never be good enough. As soon as you match what’s on TV, it all changes. You can only be true to yourself and what you decide to write as a writer.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  32. jillelainehughesjillelainehughes

    Reblogged this on Jill Elaine Hughes and commented:
    Wanted to reblog this great post by Kristen Lamb. I was thinking about discussing these very issues in a post today, and discovered that Kristen says it better than I could. Enjoy!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  33. sharonhughsonsharonhughson

    I still have to fight the perfectionist gene every single day. I am sitting on pins and needles because I gave the 2nd draft of my novel to some very supportive educators who I’m in a book group with. Why? Because it still needs work. They are so excited I wrote it and I’m so terrified they will vomit when they read it and lose all respect for me.
    In a happier vein, I have been posting without fail on my blog for over a year.
    You’re awesome, Kristen. I really look forward to smiling and being inspired when I read your posts.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  34. EnsisEnsis

    I think I struggle most with biting off more than I can chew.
    I have my blog, Dontreadbooks.com (shameless plug) where I like to post three times a week if I can.
    Then I have a weekly serial, which I haven’t updated in three weeks, and my OTHER novel, which I badly need to edit, and I just started a NEW novel.
    I feel like I might have to cull one or two projects so I can devote to each the time they deserve.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  35. literaryliasonliteraryliason

    Great suggestions. I’m glad to know someone else had their tree out longer than I did. I put mine away either the last week of Jan or first week of Feb. Can’t remember. I only put it away because the cats were eating it.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  36. Russell Loyola SullivanRussell Loyola Sullivan

    Great blog. I was getting the feeling writers were not people. Obsession with obsession seems to be more important than creating a readable novel. I fully understand the need to write a piece of work that has been vetted by author and editor and has been given its due process but that last comma placed to where it meets the conclusion that all 10000 of then are now in place is a bit much.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  37. ccfordwordsccfordwords

    This post is SO true on many levels, in fact I just wrote a similar post on balancing life. HA! We must be on the same {I’m going to loose it any second} path. Where I faultier the most is trying to take on to much, but like you said you can’t be perfect at everything. I have to remind myself of that often. I live in Orange County and the perfection meter here is off the charts. I am lucky to be able to keep myself balanced with a great family, amazing supportive friends, the perfect job and writing. As I’m writing this my basket of laundry is staring me down – at least it’s clean! Thanks for the great post!!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  38. jillwilsonbrennanjillwilsonbrennan

    You’re right, Kristen, life is a game in which the older you get, the better at juggling you get, and the harder it is to actually complete anything. I just published my first novel but it sure isn’t the first I wrote. That one got lost in an overseas move years ago. This one is called Skyscrapers by Jill Wilson Brennan and as you said, the important part is not that it isn’t the world’s greatest novel but that I actually finished it and real people have read it and like it. Wow. That sure wasn’t quite or easy! Thanks for the great post! Jill

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  39. Elen Grey | Deep in B-ville Writing Over the GarageElen Grey | Deep in B-ville Writing Over the Garage

    Kristen – I love this post, especially those images. lol I’ve been guilty of the all or nothing on more than one occasion. And the perfectionism. And… And of using ellipses. Cheers! Oh, and congrats to the WANACon winners!!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  40. M.J. PullenM.J. Pullen

    YAY! I’m delighted to win free WANACon registration – it was already worth every penny, and free is a lot fewer pennies! Thanks so much. Now to go beat the crap out of my inner perfectionist and leave her tied up in a closet… 🙂

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  41. TraceyLynnTobinTraceyLynnTobin

    I flip-flop between several ways of thinking, but when it really comes down to it I just do what I can on a daily basis. If the idea of exercise makes me want to bawl like a baby today, I won’t do it. Tomorrow if I feel like running a marathon I’ll give it a go. I DO try to write every day but I forgive myself for those days when it’s just not possible.

    On a related note, if I had I have quiet to write I would have to give up right now. lol I never have two seconds of quiet at home because even when the little missy is occupied she’s still CONSTANTLY TALKING TO ME. 😉

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  42. Laurie A WillLaurie A Will

    Hi Kristen,

    Yes, I suffer from the all or nothing mentality and have constantly remind myself that things are never going to be perfect. I am certain that my standards are high enough that they are unachievable for anyone, let alone me. I keep going back to your question about how I keep pushing myself or how I handle setbacks and I am not sure. I just have this drive inside of me that doesn’t go away that says quitting is not an option. It’s not a matter of who I am, but what I am. When people ask me who I am, writer is always the first word that pops into my head, not wife, not mother, not daughter, but writer. I do get discouraged. Sometimes I want to give up. When I tell my husband I am quitting he laughs at me and just says you’ll change your mind. And I always do and every time I come back I am more fired up then before. I guess it takes the setbacks discouragements, and failures to keep the fire going. They give us time to regroup and rededicate ourselves and I think that’s important.

    Laurie

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  43. Virginia NygardVirginia Nygard

    Perfection is the ghoul under my bed at night. He lies in wait until I fall asleep and then he invades my dreams, turning them to nightmares. He taught me to curl my upper lip at fellow POD writers who turn out a book every year and have no shame when it comes to shouting, “Look at me! I’m loud and glib and schmoozy, so my book’s gotta be terrific, right?” After critique groups, paid editors (yes, plural), and several years’ work, I found errors they (we) missed even after the book was published. At that point, memory reminded me that I’ve found a few typos in traditionally published books. Thank you for acknowledging that perfection doesn’t exist, and expecting it from yourself or everyone around you IS a nightmare. Sigh. Maybe I can sleep tonight.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  44. adstarrlingadstarrling

    Another great post thank you. And a reminder that life is quite frankly too short for perfect. Just live it and do your best.

    Xx

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  45. Marilyn QuigleyMarilyn Quigley

    A friend of mine who used to be perfectionistic in her housekeeping gave that up. She said, “When I stand before God, I want something more to hand him than a dustpan full of dirt.” Take whatever you obsess about trying to be perfect and insert it in the dustpan: chapters from umpteen novels set aside because imperfect; umpteen novels published at the cost of hardly any time spent playing with a child; having been the “perfect” mother always at the beck and call of children (who might have benefitted from some independent time here and there while you wrote that novel which you never finished). When I wonder if what I’m actually trying to perfect is worth it, I picture myself with that dustpan, either handing it to God or viewing it on my last earthly day as my “life’s accomplishment.” Am I smiling or crying at what I have to offer?

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  46. Susan SpenceSusan Spence

    Since I am not an efficient writer, everything I write is a chance to practice. I can easily spend half an hour on a comment, a blog post can take me a week to write and my first two novels took around four years a piece to complete. But I’m improving because, instead of aiming for numbers or a timeline, I strive for perfection in every sentence, even though I recognize it’s an elusive goal.

    It was the same way when I used to ski. It was so much of fun, but I didn’t just let loose. Every turn was a chance for perfection. Just like writing, sometimes things went smoothly and sometimes I barely hung on.

    I think the key is that I have no problem backing off from any activity if it’s not happening for whatever reason. For me it’s not quitting, it’s regrouping.

    Perfection can bring you up or take you down depending on how you use it.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  47. netraptor001netraptor001

    Haha, I read that same motivational book years ago. And I still wonder how its possible to find an hour to think alone. If I get an hour to myself, I sleep!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  48. richardperthrichardperth

    I revised two chapters today and shined two pair of shoes. Nevertheless, my to do list is to infinity and beyond.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  49. Elizabeth kurecka.Elizabeth kurecka.

    Omg! I read your blog today after coming from work with a fast food takeout because I hadn’t written my memoir class assignment due tomorrow when my phone rang. A dear friend’s car had died, she was at the dealer and if her father who lives out in the country couldn’t pick her before the dealership closed, would I go get her and let her stay at my house until her father got there. “Of course,” I answered. “Just let me know.” Then I flew into gear, putting back the unopened beer I had planned on having to relax a bit before I started on my assignment. Turn on faucet to get hot water to wash dirty pans, (no room in dishwasher), clear off countertops, fining room table, coffee table, pick up dog toys, clean guest bath, hide spores and magazines. You get the picture. The phone rang again and I crammed the last bite of my now cold take out, she said, “my dad is her. See you tomorrow at work.” I was feeling so guilty for letting my life get out of hand until I read your blog. Hurray! I’m not that different from some one else! Now I better tackle that assignment and that beer. Thanks for saving my sanity.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
    • Gry RanfeltGry Ranfelt

      I find it really cute at what lengths you went to make things nice for your could-happen guest 🙂

      Reply
      February 25, 2014
  50. Katherine KingsfordKatherine Kingsford

    It took me far too many years to start a blog because I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted t to have to perfect name, the perfect URL, the perfect storyline. Perfect grammar, 100% of the time. Finally, I decided to just go for it. I’m only three posts in, but I’m doing it. Thanks for the great read.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
    • mariecreativitymariecreativity

      Hurrah for you! That’s all it takes, is just to jump in 😀

      Reply
      February 24, 2014
  51. Kelley ConradKelley Conrad

    Wow! Thank you so much for the free WanaCon! I had such an awesome time and learned so much from all the presenters. If you missed it, you don’t want to miss the next one! Thanks to Kristen, Jami and Jay for a wonderful experience!

    I spend too much time worrying if I am good enough. I need to just ship it and sail away on my next adventure. Balance is so hard to find when you are pulled in 20 different directions an hour. I think as women we have been trained to take care of others first and ignore our own needs. I have decided this will be the year of me. I will be 50 this year and with that milestone approaching, I am doing what I need to do for me. That means taking my writing seriously. Listening to all Kristen’s advice and building a platform and putting my work out there.

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  52. Debbie JohanssonDebbie Johansson

    Great timing Kristen! After several years of study, I’m finding this issue of perfectionism a hard habit to break. I now expect my writing to be perfect first time, which I know is unrealistic, yet it can stop me from getting any writing done at all. I like your approach of ‘finish small and eventually we’ll finish big’ – great advice and one I plan to use.

    Taking time out to help look for zombies sounds like a lot of fun! Enjoy and thanks for another great post. 🙂

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  53. ontyrepassagesontyrepassages

    Kind of like me and Twitter. I fretted and fretted and then said, “Oh well,” and jumped in. Wow, I survived. No trip to the ER required. 🙂

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  54. mariecreativitymariecreativity

    Great points to ponder over – I forget this so often in my rush to make everything perfect. Just do it 🙂

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  55. doovinatordoovinator

    It takes 50% as much time to get something to 90% perfect as it does to get it to 99% perfect. That in turn is 50% of the time it takes to get 99% to 99.9% perfect, which is 50% of the time it takes to get from 99.9% to 99.99% perfect–but IT’S NEVER PERFECT!! AND NEVER WILL BE!!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  56. Derek PietrasDerek Pietras

    I’m working on editing a draft of my novel now. It’s been a slow process because life and because I keep finding scenes that need rewriting. But honestly, it doesn’t get me down. The process of editing is a joy in and of itself. But, after I finish this draft, I know that I will have to say “good enough” and move on because if I don’t, I never will.

    Thanks for putting these thoughts in words!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
    • Gry RanfeltGry Ranfelt

      Editing really is an art in itself and I’m glad I’m not the only one enjoying it 😀 I have so much respect for people who can just delete scenes and make stuff work.

      Reply
      February 25, 2014
  57. nicolegrabnernicolegrabner

    I find that the more that I write, the less I worry about finding the perfect thing to write about and the easier it is for me to put word on the page. I really like Nora Robert’s saying, “A$$ in chair.” Because, for me, that’s what it comes down to. No more procrastinating, it’s time to do the job. 🙂 Thanks, Kristen. This was a great post!

    Reply
    February 24, 2014
  58. Sinistra InksteyneSinistra Inksteyne

    “Somewhere between mediocrity and insanity is a nice happy place.”
    Ahhhhh…..
    (and thanks for the warning about the Lollipop)

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  59. jbiggar2013jbiggar2013

    Hi Kristen, I won your book, ty so much 🙂
    My mantra has always been if you don’t try the answer is no. I apply this to every goal I set out to achieve and it’s held me in good stead so far. I agree, no one is a Super Hero, we’re all just human, so cut your self some slack and just focus on doing what you love.

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  60. AGentleandQuietSpiritAGentleandQuietSpirit

    At some point in the not to distant future, I hope to be a stay at home writing mom. There are days I struggle with feeling like I’ll never write once I start having kids, but I want to have kids. You help me feel like this is possible and are showing me what it’s going to take. Thank you!

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      Nah, you’ll probably write more. I did. And babies ease you into it. They don’t start out climbing and trying to play with knives. You get time to change as they grow. Invest in a Kinect for the toddler years. Will save you.

      Reply
      February 25, 2014
  61. Mark LuykMark Luyk

    Ho Kristen, Thanks for the many helpful articles! I have a question. I saw that the recordings from WanaCon are still available. The ‘buy now’ link leads to the registration page, which confuses me. How can I buy the recordings? What’s the price?Can I buy only the recordings of the topics appealing to me? Kind regards, Mark LuykNetherlands

    Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2014 18:35:12 +0000 To: mark_luyk@hotmail.com

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  62. Barbara HinskeBarbara Hinske

    As usual, another wonderful piece of advice! I just discovered you in the last 30 days, and I’m overjoyed when you’re waiting in my inbox! I drop everything and read. Your mantra — The world rewards finishers, not perfection — has been on my lips countless times since I read it in your post a week or 10 days ago. I’ve been quoting you to my children, coworkers, and neighbors. Bravo!! Looking forward to more. I self-published my first novel in Dec 2012. Was it perfect? No way! But I had it professionally edited and took it as far as I could, so it was time to let it go. And it’s actually sold well! I’ve got a nice following of people who are looking forward to the sequel, which I’m putting more effort (and $$$) into. I got plenty of reader love, and some criticism, too. I’m trying to allow the criticism to instruct me on making the sequel better. Bottom line — if I’d continued to stew on that first manuscript, I’d never have had the wonderful experiences I’ve had the past year.

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  63. K.B. OwenK.B. Owen

    That “peeing alone” thing. Oh yeah. 😉

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  64. Tamara LeBlancTamara LeBlanc

    Whoa, late in commenting. Yesterday was a bear!
    I beat myself up most about my weight, which is ridiculous, all things considered, but I can’t seem to help myself.
    But I love what you said, “the world rewards finishers, not perfection.” That’s so true. We, me, can never be perfect, not in body, not in mind, not in writing. What we need to do is take one day at a time and do our best to get things done (like manuscripts or edits, or just eating right for 24 hrs) then, in the long run, we’ll be good to go.
    Thanks for your wisdom!
    Tamara

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  65. Pat AmsdenPat Amsden

    So true! You can have the most perfect sentence ever and, with the possible exception of writing buddies no one else will ever see it if you don’t finish the book, story or whatever it’s a part of. Imagine if that sentence was part of your favorite book! What a loss.

    When it comes to clean eating though I suspect I’m going to stay the size I am instead of the size I’m aiming for unless I keep it clean as much as possible. I’m good at finding loopholes here but unless I want to BE the size of a bus it’s best I strive for perfection. Hands off that chocolate!

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  66. writerchickwriterchick

    I think this whole perfection thing came from the ‘you can have it all’ movement back in the day. You know, I am woman, hear me roar. And all it accomplished was in making women feel inadequate and stupid. But I personally have a problem with the word ‘balance’ too – it gets bandied about quite a bit too. I think that artists (including writers, of course) don’t operate in the balance zone. We’re passionate and passion means big jags of enthusiasm one day and big swaths of self-pity the next. It does all balance out, I think, for most of us, though.

    I agree with you though on the baby steps. You’d be amazed how much you can accomplish by just doing a little bit every day. It does add up. And you do finish things that way. We can’t use others (especially famous authors whose lives are dedicated to writing and have assistants, housekeepers, chefs and drivers) as a yardstick on how much we should write a day or how mnay words we must produce. We can only use ourselves as the yardstick. When you have more time you write more – but even 15 minutes a day makes a difference.

    Anyway, good post. Thanks.

    Annie

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      But we are still balanced. We can’t be amazingly, zealously passionate about our art (writing) and have that same requirement for all other aspects of life. If we are going to throw heart and soul into our craft, then we need to settle for less-than-a-Martha-Stewart-Home, perhaps, lest we go nusto and burn out. We need to reserve that passion where it needs to go—our art. And the dishes will be there. Trust me. I have tested this theory :D.

      Reply
      February 25, 2014
  67. ShelbyShelby

    I need to remember this, that not everything has to be perfect and perfection is an illusion. Progress in the right direction is still progress, and that is difficult to think,, because we only see the success at the end and not the baby steps it took to get there.Even though the revisions make me want to pull my hair out and scream, if I keep at it, I will eventually get there.

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  68. Glynis JollyGlynis Jolly

    I’m a perfectionist by nature. From what I’ve read, most Virgos are. Before I started writing seriously, I had to learn to let go of this ‘perfection’ thing because of the man I married. I love him, not doubt about it, but he is a slob most of the time. Like my perfectionism, he comes by his sloppiness naturally. Because of my natural tendencies, I, of course, spotted this difference between us, whereas he’s oblivious to it. Therefore, I was the one who curbed my want and over the years have gotten somewhat use to the way the house is. This, logically, has led to me having the time to write. I gave a little and got a little. All is right with my world. 🙂

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  69. Shermie RayneShermie Rayne

    I so loved this post! Thank you! I’m sharing it with my writing group now:)

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  70. Thomas WeaverThomas Weaver

    I used to be all-or-nothing about most things. I think being physically disabled, and reaching the point where I CAN NOT do all the things I feel like I’m “supposed” to be doing, has forced me to step back and stop trying for perfection in everything. There are a few things I do very well. There are several things I do well enough to please myself (I’m not the best cook in the world, but I make pretty darn good fish chowder, so who cares if I can’t also make curry?) and be happy with that. With writing… I will rewrite and rewrite for years (or decades) because I’m worried it’s still not good enough. Finished is better than perfect. (I edit novels for other people; I should KNOW this.) What I struggle to remember is that there is no single definition of “perfection” anyway.

    Reply
    February 25, 2014
  71. Jennifer J. ChowJennifer J. Chow

    Great post! Thanks for providing me the freedom of not being perfect. I’m going to focus on shipping now (since I finally put away my friends’ Christmas greeting cards that I had displayed).

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
  72. jumpingfromcliffsjumpingfromcliffs

    An excellent post and one we should all learn by heart. How do you measure ‘finished’ or ‘perfect’ with writing anyway? There’s always something else to tweak, another phrase to hone, an adjective to remove…

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
  73. shanjeniahshanjeniah

    OMG OMG OMG!!!! I’m a WINNER! =D Squeee!

    Is it odd that I’m kind of scared that I won, because I know you are going to do that voodoo that you do so well, and my head will spin?

    Not only that, but this post….I adore it.

    I’ve spent five years learning how not to make taking care of the house my life’s work. it was pointless. Our life is set up around natural learning, and, if there’s a place where that happens neatly, well, this is emphatically not it!

    Now, I never invite anyone in who will be more interested in the state of the house than they are in us, and I have extra hours every day for enjoying my life, and, you know, writing stuff….

    Ahhhh….it’s much better, even if I still can’t count on having the bathroom to myself!

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
  74. Robyn MulderRobyn Mulder

    Kristen, great blog post. Lots of great ideas that I’ll keep in mind as I work on becoming a more consistent writer. I’ve posted to my blog every Friday for 7 weeks (robynmulder.blogspot.com) – I count that as a victory for this procrastinator! ~Robyn

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
  75. MarissaMarissa

    Thanks Kristen! I have always been a huge journaller and recently started blogging to work on my writing skills. I have book ideas rolling around in my head but I wanted to work on my writing skills first. Thank you for the reminder of setting attainable goals and not striving for perfection. I cannot please everyone and if I keep doubting my writing skills, then I will never reach my goals. Instead I need to keep pressing forward and trust that even if I have a couple people follow blog that must mean my writing can’t be all bad. Thanks!

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
  76. Kristen LucianiKristen Luciani

    Just reading this relaxed me! Lol! And not that it’s the only thing I took away from this insightful post, but I just wanted to mention that instead of P90x you may want to look into T25. It’s awesome and shorter. Plus there’s a modified workout to prevent injury if you want to go a bit easier. Still hard though. Just my two cents. 🙂

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      There is a new P90 that is 30 minutes and I might look into that. I didn’t get injured with P90. It was mowing the yard with a crappy mower. I pushed myself too hard with the yard work and then injured myself *head desk*. Sigh. I rarely have been injured doing anything “cool.”

      Reply
      February 27, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      I don’t think that is “perfectionism.” Perfectionism tends to be a defeating process where there is no forward momentum. We quibble with finding perfect words and futzing with dialogue and 6 months later aren’t halfway through the first draft.

      Reply
      February 27, 2014
  77. milesmv81writesmilesmv81writes

    Thank you so much for putting this out there. We all try to hard to fit into that cookie cutter image that we see all around us. It doesn’t exist. We are the real people in a world of posers!

    Also how do you like p90x? I am going to start it tonight and I’m petrified. I hope I am just able to complete the workout. Any tips?

    Great post!! Love reading your blog!!

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      I love P90X. Each exercise is broken down into how many minutes, so it makes it seem to go faster. Also, I can sit one out or modify until I get stronger or gain endurance. Also you see results MAD FAST, even if you only do part of the workouts. Like I might skip the push-ups or modify them because I have a history of tendonitis (why I had to quit last time and that was from YARD WORK). This time I am doing the Lean version so I don’t risk a flare-up of tendonitis.

      Reply
      February 27, 2014
  78. CarolineCaroline

    To me it is great to read this post now. I started blogging over a month ago, just to have the deadline of actually finishing something I started writing. I have been writing for a long time, but blogging actually helped me getting over something really though that has been hunting me for 12 years. HOW? Just by finishing a post, because by the end of the post I actually lost the thoughts in my head. Furthermore it helps to read your own finished work back, because it make you look at your own thoughts from an objective perspective. Great post and great blog!

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
  79. John BakerJohn Baker

    “The world rewards finishers not perfection” is absolutely true in software development circles. Writers aren’t the only people tormented by perfection. One of the issues I struggle with is the “diary vs. reference” conundrum. I know most of my readers find my blog via search engines and most are seeking very specific answers to particular questions. My “reference” posts are the most sought after but my “diary” posts are the most fun to write. What to do? I tell myself it’s my blog and I will write what I want. The minute money is changing hands I might reconsider. Regardless, your advice to write every day is something I have more luck with than exercise or dieting so maybe I am a “writer.” Another great post — cheers.

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
  80. Raani YorkRaani York

    Thank you Kristen. Thanks so much for a very VERY encouraging Blog for me. It really helps me a lot to keep focus on the right thing – and it tells me what I had hoped – but had a hard time putting together right… until you finally “spoke it” out.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    February 26, 2014
  81. M T McGuireM T McGuire

    So true, it’s all about taking on the things you want but not too much and if you want to take on too much, well, you just have to ditch something.

    Cheers

    MTM

    Reply
    February 27, 2014
  82. Suzanne Lucero (@S_Lucero)Suzanne Lucero (@S_Lucero)

    I have to say your suggestion to connect with someone who lives close to where your novel takes place is spot-on. I’ve done the Google-earth bit and read travel blogs about the area, but nothing will ever take the place of checking details about habits and turns of phrases with someone who actually lives there.

    I was lucky enough to become Twitter buddies with a professional editor who lives very close to the village in Scotland where my novel takes place. She has saved my … um, tail-end so many times it’s not funny. She will definitely get a big shout-out in the Acknowledgement sectioned when my baby is finally published.

    Reply
    February 27, 2014
  83. KarenKaren

    Love. It.
    Especially that you share in the ‘Mom experience’ and never ending laundry.
    I strive for balance – ALWAYS. Nice to know there are others out there too trying to keep it real and not faking it. (Perfect house, perfect kids, perfect car, and hair, makeup, relationships etc.) You made me smile today. Thanks.

    Reply
    February 27, 2014
  84. Dave WitheDave Withe

    Kristen, I’ve been a follower for almost a year. I talked up your #MyWana thing to my online writers group about the time I moved it to a private Facebook group page.

    I’m sorry that I got to your “The World Rewards Finishers NOT Perfection” post too late to vote in the I.U. website poll (great resource by the way I subscribed). That quote is my new wallpaper.

    This post is very helpful. My somewhat moribund writing call has been revitalized due to a freelance gig to ghost write a biography of my pastor’s wife’s mother. Your blog post is a very providential exhortation at a critical juncture.

    I don’t have an active blog currently; but based on your comments in this post I see that I should re design and reactivate my old wordpress blog.

    Thanks and God Bless you. Love your blog by the way.

    SGD
    dave

    Reply
    February 28, 2014
  85. ramblinannramblinann

    I missed being able to read your blog. My life didn’t just hiccup it projectile vomitted,but am now hopefully getting back in the swing of things. You always seem to give me the boot in the butt I need, so I’m off to write something.

  86. D HolcombD Holcomb

    Perfection. Definitely perfection. I can rewrite the life out of a piece. Gah! It’s an addiction. Doing laundry would be a relief!

  87. KateKate

    Reblogged this on Some of my favourite posts and commented:
    I’m desperately trying to get over the fear of starting. Being a massive perfectionist, doing something I don’t know whether I am good at is terrifying. I like the idea that even 100 words a day can be a goal.

  88. Britt SkrabanekBritt Skrabanek

    I feel the same way. Wanna be a writer? Sit your arse down, and do it! There is absolutely no such thing as a perfect book, just like there is no such thing as perfection.

  89. kindleandilluminatekindleandilluminate

    Kristen, thanks! Exactly what I need to get back in my writing schedule! The news I have my first SPAWN on the way has sent me into constant fatigue and sleep. No morning sickness, thank goodness. The hubby and I were shocked and are thrilled, but I have regained some energy and am looking forward to the 2nd trimester and my early morning (non-perfect) writing schedule again! I, too, have fur-babies – cat and dog – that love to accompany me to the bathroom. Very soon my first (and only) child will, too, I’m sure. Thanks for always being real – I love your blogs. Thanks – Janellen

    • Author Kristen LambAuthor Kristen Lamb

      Congratulations! And the cool thing is that babies give you time to ease into being a mom. Thank GOD they don’t start out being able to walk and climb and find the knives. Stay rested ((HUGS)).

  90. BenAustinBlogBenAustinBlog

    This was great thanks!

    I especially resonated with the Learn to ship and “Blogging trains perfection out of us” parts.

    Blogging has forced me to put things out there that were very mediocre. I learned from my crappy blog posts and then kept on pushing through the resistance.

    The hardest thing was just getting the ball rolling. After you mess things up, you lose your identity as a perfectionist and it gets much easier to keep writing.

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