Perfectionism and Competitiveness: Are You a Winner or a Loser?

October 12, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Posted in The Muse | 16 Comments
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winningHas perfectionism or competitiveness ever strangled the joy out of your muse? Both traits can be creative suicide for a writer—or, at the very least, they can rob you of a much needed desktop Snoopy Dance.

Example: Today, I received an email from Jessica Strawser, editor of Writer’s Digest. I felt a flutter of excitement and knew it had something to do with the results of the competition I entered back in May. The subject line “Your Self Published Book Entry” was a pretty solid clue I was right. My muse whispered, “Get ready to dance. It must be good news or you wouldn’t have gotten an email.”

So, I opened the email and read: “One of my most enjoyable tasks as editor of Writer’s Digest is passing along good news to writers. This is one of those fun occasions. It is my pleasure to tell you that your book, The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir in the Life Stories category, has been chosen as an Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 17th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards. Your book will be promoted in the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest. In addition, you will receive a letter, a Notable Award Certificate and $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books.”

When I read the words “honorable mention,” my heart sank. It felt like I’d received a thanks-for-participating ribbon like the ones handed out in grade school. Instead of elation, I immediately told my muse she would have to work harder next time. Write a better book. Tell a more compelling story. Something. Something to make it win. It didn’t matter to me that there were probably hundreds of writers who didn’t receive an email at all. It mattered that my book wasn’t good enough to win.

Yes, I am self-aware enough to understand that my reaction is self-flagellation. My perfectionism and competitiveness are the same personality traits that made me hound my university English professor about why I received an A- in one of her classes and an A in the other. Why the A- grade? What could I have done differently? Better?

I know I’m tough on myself and I’m competitive. I believe there is always room for improvement—in anything and everything I do. But today, I realized how much joy I lose when I let those tendencies run roughshod over the moments I should be celebrating: the milestones, the acknowledgments, the good reviews, etc.

So, I’ve decided that when I receive my March/April issue, I’m going to frame the magazine page my book title appears on as a reminder to be joyful and grateful for my accomplishments. And I’m looking forward to expanding my writing craft library with my $50 worth of WD books!

Ok, dear readers, I showed you mine, so what are your writer demons?

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