Monday, November 15, 2010

The Invisible Box

I take a fair bit of pride in going a little beyond the superficial in my reviews here on Alpha Heroes. Or so I like to think, anyway.

The downside to this is that it often takes me quite some time to put a review together; up to 6 hours sometimes of drafting, editing, formatting, reference checking, etc. And when I get a book in hand or a concept in mind that I really want to do justice to, I sometimes delay, procrastinate, etc. until I feel like I have a nice chunk of time and mental energy to devote to it. Because I don’t want to do a half-assed job.

However, lately this has been getting in my way. So I want to kick off a plan for the next two weeks – kind of like NaNoWriMo, I’m going to post something every day. Might not be as well-thought out or as prettily-formatted as I generally like to do. But there’ll be something. (This one counts).

Here’s a thought for today – not about books or reading or blogging per se, but for those of us with a procrastination problem. Have you heard the term “paralyzed perfectionist”? In a nutshell, you’d rather not start something unless you are sure you can do it perfectly. Which, on the surface, is an admirable thing—if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly, and all that. It’s the difference between “properly” and “perfectly” that can become tricky.

I once heard this described very amusingly along these lines: “My house is messy. I was going to take out the trash, but then I notice that the floor around the can had a spill, so I stopped to wipe that up with a rag. While I was down there, I realized that the linoleum was starting to peel up and that we need to get that taken care of right away or water will get underneath and ruin the substrate. So I started working up the budget for that and decided that I’d rather go with hardwood than replacing the lino so I started researching the different woods and finishes. And then I looked up and it was midnight so I went to bed and the trash is still sitting next to the can waiting for me to take it out.” This isn’t really a story about getting distracted but a story about turning a little task into a monstrously complicated/expensive/difficult one.

A couple of good background articles:

A good general view
Regarding perfectionism in kids...

Does this apply to you? Do you have any strategies for breaking loose? As it relates to blogging, this daily-post commitment is my strategy for now (and it has worked before, though I haven’t explicitly discussed it).

So here I go, hitting the post button without finding the perfect image to go with the article or second-guessing the article title...

OK, that's a lie, I did second-guess it and third-guess it, but I haven't come up with anything better, so here goes.

7 comments:

Phyl said...

I hadn't heard the term "paralyzed perfectionist" before this, but it certainly rings true. I find this applies to me especially when I'm ready to start a new quilting project. I have my supplies, my idea, my tools--in short, everything I need to get ready. And then I sit there and play spider solitaire instead! It is so trite, but sometimes I have to tell myself to "just do it!" or I'll never get started. And once I start, it's hard to stop.

Nicola O. said...

I quilt a little bit too, Phyl, but I think my getting-started problem there is that I *really* dislike the prep work! I love designing the pattern and choosing the fabrics, but the pre-washing, pressing, marking, and cutting I don't love so much. I want to get straight to the piecing!

Tumperkin said...

Does it sound familiar? Does it ever! My husband is even worse than I am. I'll always remember the time he did the dishes and ended up carrying out a lenthy bit of plumbing maintenance. Six hours later and the kitchen floor was covered in his tools...

On the blogging front, I have changed my blogging style quite drastically to get over this precise problem. Here is what I do now: I don't aim to really say more than one thing in a post. If it's a book review, I might just say one quite narrow and specific thing (though I might say more. I certainly don't aim to do the sort of comprehensive reviews I used to attempt. I just talk about what interests me and don't bother with the rest. God knows there's enough people out there doing traditional reviews. And actually, I wonder whether people really have a tolerance for much more than one point anyway? I know I like my own blog-reading in bite sized chunks. Sometimes when I read a long and complex post with multiple messages and slants, it puts me off commenting.

De-lurker said...

Others have linked procrastination and perfectionism but I've never seen such a descriptive term as "paralyzed perfectionist". Some important things were left undone by a family member and your post is triggering me to "build a bridge and get over it". This is why I check your blog every day - you share a friendly voice that shines with authenticity. And it shone just as strongly today, even with your new approach.

Jill Sorenson said...

Um, yeah. I know what you mean. I just wrote several different replies and deleted them all because they weren't good enough.

Elizabeth said...

Oh yes.

A colleague recently put me on to Merlin Mann's website, 43 Folders. Although you can spend a lot of time on sites with good ideas for avoiding procrastination . . . time when you should be doing something else, but you're too busy trying to become the perfect non-procrastinator.

Nicola O. said...

De-lurker, that's a pretty amazing compliment, thank you very much. I hope you de-lurk more often.

Tump, I think that's a great approach. I tried it with my Covet post but I couldn't stick to just one thought. I need an editor. heh.

Jill-- generally I'm less... thoughtful? about comments and forums. I'm OK with dashing off off-the-cuff thoughts. The blog posts though, well, I don't know. They're more of a composition or something for me.

Elizabeth... um, yeah. Also like how I tend to find books on organizing and decluttering at the bottom of piles of clutter...

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