Done > Perfect

Book

 

Have you read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear? I was first interested as a resource for my husband’s business. He’s an artist and I’m slowly assisting with project management, production and marketing. Slow is the key word here. I thought this book would contain nuggets of wisdom for my husband but instead, every page contains an eye-opener for me. My husband already lives a creative life with minimal fear. I’m the one stuck in the hamster wheel of fear and constantly weighing risks and rewards.

Themes of overcoming resistance and fear are not new but, Gilbert’s voice resonates. Themes can be applied to your 9-5 career, side-hustle, parenthood and self-care (fitness, crafting, cooking, whatever makes you smile).

I’ve read the section Fear in High Heels, a handful of times and wanted to share an excerpt:

“Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work. Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place.

The most evil trick about perfectionism, though, is that it disguises itself as a virtue. In job interviews, for instance, people will sometimes advertise their perfectionism as if it’s their greatest selling point – taking pride in the very thing that is holding them back from enjoying their fullest possible engagement with creative living.

But I see it differently. I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. In think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, “I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.” … We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism … at some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is – if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined hard. Which is the entire point. Or should be.”

For the most part, I’ve dismissed the idea of perfectionism and embraced my Type B personality characteristics. Those traits are an asset in my career, marriage, parenting-style and sanity.

I don’t apply this sound reasoning to my creative pursuits, regardless of the risk or reward. Whether I’m knitting a pair of mittens, examining a complex recipe or developing a plan for my husband’s business, I take three steps back. The, panic at the countless ways I can will fail and give up before I start.

It’s not logical, helpful or fun.

Done is greater than perfect!

Done means a warm pair of mittens, a three-tiered cake just for the hell of it.

Done is fun. Waiting around for perfect is boring as hell.

Monday Motivation: Keep on Keeping on

Ingrid Ice Skates

The face of determination.

 

Happy Monday!

How was your weekend? Over here, it was a good mix of tackling house projects and ignoring responsibilities like laundry and grocery shopping. Yesterday Jamie and I met up for coffee and chatted about our families, writing and Trivia Crack. I told Jamie that I was falling short on my most recent writing goal but, I want to keep writing. She nodded and for some reason, that gesture was enough motivation – and validation – to keep going. After all, the name of the game this year is determination.

Over the holidays, I stumbled upon a project that resonated with me and mimicked National Novel Writing Month – Picture Book Idea Month. Although I discovered the site a few months after the challenge, I decided to participate, or should I say “participate.” The challenge: to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. The website provides some writing prompts but its primary goal is to motivate writers.

I started 30 days ago and have 16 ideas.

If you just look at the calendar and the number of ideas, I’ve failed. Since I’m going at this solo instead of following along with a group of like-minded people, I’m proud of my progress. That’s not entirely true – I find my progress acceptable. My arbitrary date has come and gone but instead of giving up, per usual, I’m going to continue to write and generate ideas. If it takes 60 days, it takes 60 days.

I tend to get caught up in a negative feedback loop and ultimately stuck in my own head. Telling myself these ideas aren’t good. These books have all been done before. Why would anyone want to read a children’s book about that topic? Fear, what a powerful beast!

It took me a long time to get mentally tough as a runner. Mental toughness is proving to be a muscle that I need to continue to flex. I didn’t think brainstorming 30 book ideas would require the same level as mental toughness as running a half marathon. It does. It’s easier to check email or read blogs. It’s easier to stop running and walk. But, as any seasoned runner will tell you, it’s quicker and far more satisfying to run up that damn hill instead of walking up the long climb. You reach the top feeling satisfied and accomplished. It was hard and you did it. You can do hard things.

It took me a long time to believe that hills were worth running but over the course of training, I started to like hills. There is this gradual, never-ending hill about a half mile from my house. Each time I run up the incline, I repeat the mantra, “This hill is my bitch, this hill is my bitch. This. Hill. Is. My. Bitch.”

It’s time to embrace this mantra and repeat it over and over until I reach the top, and write 30 ideas, “This challenge is my bitch, this challenge is my bitch. This. Challenge. Is. My. Bitch.”

2015: The Year of “Because, Why Not?”

Because_whynot

I stated in my last post that I was not about setting goals for the new year just for the sake of setting goals for the new year. But in the back of my mind, there’s a small part of me that knows I want this year to be just a little bit different, hopefully a little better than the last. In 2014, I got a taste for embracing the fear. In 2015, I’m going to push that. I’m calling it the year of, “Because, Why Not?” (screw your grammar rules, it works!)

Maybe it’s because I’m in my thirties and I’ve started to care less and less about the opinions others have of me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been able to keep a child alive for over 2.5 years (with the help of an amazing partner, I might add) and that in itself is a COMPLETE success for me. Maybe it’s because I’m rejiggering the idea of who I am and what I’m capable of. Whatever it is, I’m glad it found it’s way to me. And I plan to embrace that sense of pushing past the fear to try new things.

Just today I stumbled across a piece of advice for aspiring writers from one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood:

“”I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. ‘Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?’ And at some point you just have to flop in there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required.’

So I’m going to be flopping. I might be screaming. But by golly I’m going to give 2015 my all…because, why not? How about you? What will you be doing with the new year?

This should be the “celebrate your successes” post…

The view from the top of the NaNoWriMo mountain.

The view from the top of the NaNoWriMo mountain.

…But it’s not.

Why? Because, maybe I can’t do that. I don’t know. But I’m sitting here, staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out how to make a post about celebrating your successes because that’s what I should be doing. I just won NaNoWriMo…i.e. I just wrote 50,000 words in one month. I get that that’s amazing. I get that that’s on top of another 50,000 words and that is also amazing. And I get that I set out to accomplish these goals back in July and I did just that, and that too is amazing.

And yet, other than a small, victory lap on social media, I don’t have any other thoughts on celebrating these successes.

Why do I feel this way? I’m asking myself that very question. Why can’t I celebrate my success? Why can’t I just sit back and have a glass of wine and snuggle up for a marathon of Once Upon a Time (seriously, stop judging)? My best guess is momentum.

I can’t stop.

...and we won’t stop…Thanks, Miley

As tough as it was to sit down and dedicate myself to one thing until I could say it was finished (or at least that step in the process), it’s the journey that I love. It’s in some ways how I feel when I’m training for a half marathon or another long distance event.

When I’m training for a run, it’s similar in that it takes a while. 12-16 weeks to be exact. And the journey can get really tiring. And there are high points and low points, but you gradually get closer to the race day. And then you get super pumped for the race and you imagine how grateful you’ll be to have finished the race, and then it’s over and you think…hmmmm…I’ll just rest for a bit, but then I should go find something else to train for so I don’t lose this momentum (there it is, again!).

It’s not a bad problem to have, but it’s there. And it steals the joy you imagine that you should have had from accomplishing such a great feat, because you’re constantly thinking about the next big thing.

So that’s the world I’m living in right now: What’s the Next Big Thing (NBT)? I have a couple answers, but I can guarantee it doesn’t include a lot of time for marathon viewings of ABC family shows (booooo, hissssss).

NBT 1: Fitness first! It’s December 1, and I am ready to get back into running and working out. I just signed up for a gym membership after a long hiatus (it’s too nice in the summer to waste it on a gym membership) and I’m already planning out how to make this month count. No January 1 woes for this girl, that’s for sure.

NBT 2: Baking. Well maybe there will be a few small woes on January 1, but it’s still worth it. I need to do some serious holiday-inspired baking this month. First up – chocolate covered pretzels, caramel corn and sugar cookies.

NBT 3: Happy by Design. Lindsay and I are putting our thinking caps on and making the most of our little blog during the month of December. As they say in the Lego movie that I’ve seen no less than 80 times in the last week, “Hold on to your butts!”

NBT 4: Reading. I have a seriously long list of books that I need to read. It’s not all going to happen in December, but I can make some good progress on the list over the next 30 days.

And where does this leave the book I spent so much time working on? Well, it leaves it right where I left it on November 29, when I wrote the last words. My goal is to not touch it for a couple weeks. I’d like to just focus on the four items above. I really think that’s enough to fill my personal plate…not to mention that list doesn’t even include all of the other priorities in my life…like family, friends, my job, traveling, wrapping presents, etc. But I have a feeling that I won’t be able to stay away very long. And that’s a REALLY good thing. Because if you feel the need to go back to it, it means there’s something there. So I hope this feeling pesters me for the next couple weeks, but only time will tell.

You gotta let it simmer.

So all of this to say, I suck at celebrating successes. I’m just constantly caught up in the momentum. So if you’re looking for someone to show you how to have a good time after a recent accomplishment? Well you’ll have to look elsewhere, because I’m not your girl.

The sucky things that happen when you chase your dreams

He makes it look so easy.

He makes it look so easy.

I think it’s time to lay some things to rest. Mainly, when you take the time to work on your goals or your dreams, there are things that are going to suck along the way.

Was that too honest? Bear with me.

As you may know, I’m all about pumping up myself and others with a good motivational quote. I’ll continue to do this, but I just need to get a few things off my chest. Here, I’m going to take you down some of the sucky things I’ve experienced when I’ve actually taken the time to work on my goals.

First, there’s resistance.

This comes in the form of distractions, not feeling sure of yourself, writer’s block, walking the last quarter of a mile when you wish you could run, negativity towards your mission, not trusting your gut, etc. Resistance is what keeps you from finishing or keeps you from moving forward on something really important. Most of the rest of this list could be summed up under the header of “resistance” but I think it’s still worth while to call those other ones out.

Resentment towards “others”

I don’t mean  resentment towards your friends or family, because if you have resentment towards them, you should work that out. That’s not healthy. No, I’m talking about the resentment you feel towards the  real or perceived “others” who are doing the things you are trying to do, but seem to be doing them faster, more efficiently, and with more success. It’s hard to step back and put it all in perspective, but everyone has their own path. Just because you see something bright and shiny on the surface doesn’t mean they haven’t struggled for just as long as you have.

A feeling like you’re doing everything wrong

I used to feel this way with running and then I just accepted that I could go the same distance as others…it just might take me a bit longer. Now, I always feel this way with creative writing. Every single day I lay down some words and I feel like it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written. This post? It might be the worst post I’ve ever written. Hands down. And yet, every day I have to put something down on paper. I have to think about what I’m going to post next on Happy by Design and be okay with hitting the publish button. Yet, it hasn’t gotten any easier.

A weird competitiveness against others that they may not realize (which in turn makes you feel silly)

As much as you resent those “others,” there’s still a sense that you have to compete with them. Oh, you wrote 2,000 words today? I’m going to write 2,500! It’s not a competition. Seriously. It’s not. And then you feel like an even bigger idiot when the resistance kicks in and you only wrote 500 and it was way too much explanation about a piece of cheese (seriously, haven’t we all been there?). I don’t get competitive with running (see the “heart attack” explanation below), but I do get a sense of pride when I’ve had a good couple of weeks with running, strength training and eating like a normal human being (As opposed to a grizzly bear preparing for hibernation).

A slight (or significant) drop in personal appearances

You’re focused. You’re putting in the work. You’re taking the time to chase your dreams. After a couple weeks you notice that you now have stress acne, your hair has seen MUCH better days (seriously, get on that, Jamie!), and the jiggly bits are starting to come back with quite a vengeance (how long has it been since I stepped foot in a gym?). It just happens. And I don’t have the hours in a day to do all the things I want to do all the time.

A feeling like you might have a heart attack

The. Worst. Thing. EVER. I talk about this sensation in my recap of running Ragnar (Lindsay and I were part of a twelve person team running from Madison to Chicago over 24 hours). That was the last time it was in super full force. Now it arrives in the form of little anxiety attacks when I’m under a lot of pressure. None of it is good. Make sure your ticker checks out as this could be a serious health issue for you. Lord knows the amount of cheese I eat is not helping my ticker, but I’m going to roll the dice on cheese in this scenario.

Life doesn’t pause for you. Time is never on your side.

It’s your goal, not theirs. Their life continues. Your job is still waiting for you. So are those bills. Sometimes I get really angry when it seems like those “others” have found an extra eight hours to do stuff that I simply don’t have time to accomplish. The 2,000 words you wrote at Starbucks at 10am…after your morning Pilates class? I don’t get the logistics. I also think that would be my dream life if I had enough money, but there seem to be way too many people like this. How does it add up? What are you sacrificing in other areas? I wish I knew. For now, I’ll have to put up with 4:30 am wake up calls where I have to choose between writing or working out because once 6am hits, life is resuming at a rapid speed and I won’t have time to do anything else until 8pm that night. And by that time I’m so exhausted I just pass out so that I can make my 4:30am wake up call the next day. More hours in a day. PLEASE. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

——-

Okay, so I didn’t mean for this to turn into a really long post, but it did. And if you’re wondering how I was able to write this during peak toddler hours while the hubby is off to the Packers/Bears game? Well, I’m letting some pretty crazy stuff go down in my house right now. There are no less than 3 balls flying around my kitchen at any one time. Oh did I mention “terrible parenting” is also on the table? Well that was just assumed, I guess.

Anywho – I should get going so I can join in the craziness that is life, forever and always.

NaNoWriMo update: I’m on track, but half of the reason I wrote this post is because I was having a “woe is me” moment after seeing a LOT of other people flying through their word counts. Hitting the 50,000 word count is all I can focus on and that’s taking a LOT of energy that I currently do not have. Today I hit 15,000 words in nine days. Previously it took me 6 weeks to hit that count. This is hard!

NaNo_update_11.8.14

End rant.

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