Being a perfectionist sucks.

Do you know how at the beginning of a project you have such high hopes and expectations for yourself? Only to realize halfway through that you have 3 exams and 4 other papers and pages of homework to finish at the same time? I do, and in addition to this I have the distinct pleasure of being a mega perfectionist. I know when I’ve created and written something that I’m proud of, and right now I’m not where I want to be with my open letter. In a sense I needed to get to this point to realize what I really wanted to get out of this project (albeit I never actually wanted to reach this point), and now that I’m here I’m pretty lost. I’m so stuck on a vision of creating something amazing that I didn’t realize the time and work that I would have to put into it. I’m so used to writing research papers in a span of 3 hours that when I sat down to write my open letter and allowed myself one day; I was grossly unprepared. In fact this is very prevalent in the “open letter” that I wrote, since really it is just a research paper.

The first aspect of my open letter that I need to revise is the layout. When looking at my project, one would be more inclined to believe it was a weird variation of a research paper rather than a highly persuasive letter. The second aspect that I need to change will help the layout – I need to find a better way to cite my sources. My use of in-text citations currently is distracting and not feasible, so I am actively looking for an alternative option (perhaps hyperlinks?) The third aspect of my piece that I need to revise is my personal voice and argument. I have so much evidence and research in the open letter that I forgot to say what all of the information meant to me. I saw that in a lot of open letters there was some sort of personal connection to the topics (the writer was involved in something or had family members involved in something). However I don’t have a personal connection to my topic which makes me less credible in the eyes of the reader. Therefor, my argument and my writing has to be that much stronger to make up for my lack of involvement.

Overall, I feel that I am in a place where many people become stuck while writing. I have something written that I could submit and be done with, but that I’m really not proud of. My open letter is full of research and full of great points but that are poorly organized. In addition, I’ve spent so much time researching and constructing what I have that I am afraid to delete or get rid of sections. I need to take a step back and think about what I ideally want from this piece, how I would be proud of the writing, and how to execute these ideas. I know what needs to be changed (citations, layout, my personal voice and my arguments) and now I am at the point where I need to actually do things out of my comfort zone to accomplish what I want. Like I said, being a perfectionist sucks.


Lexi Wung

Lexi is a senior at the University of Michigan studying Psychology with minors in Writing and Entrepreneurship. She will be joining the Teach For America Baltimore Corps after graduation to teach High School English. She will also be receiving her masters degree concurrently from Johns Hopkins.

3 thoughts to “Being a perfectionist sucks.”

  1. Lexi,
    I completely relate with you about trying to create the perfect piece, how each assignment we do starts out with an idealized version that we so desperately want to create. However, it’s difficult to accomplish this due to the sheer volume of other assignments and extracurriculars that have to be done. Naturally, it is also more difficult to write in a way that is alien to us, so it makes sense that it would take more time and energy to do this. Nevertheless, when you are unsure of what you really want, it is absolutely important that you take a step back and reflect on the matter, so you can create the best piece that you can. Hitting creative writing blocks like this is always frustrating, but I feel that when you obtain that serendipitous moment of clarity, you will have the passion and drive to create something that is truly amazing.

  2. Hi Lexi,

    Like you, I had these huge expectations for my piece. I spent so much time deciding what piece I wanted to use for my original source that I let my heart dictate the decision more than my head. Also like you, I’m a perfectionist. Especially when it comes to writing, I’m never truly satisfied with my end product. There’s always words I want to tweak, or entire paragraphs I wish were better.

    I think, though, this is just the way that we as writers are. It’s not great, because in my case I can be too hard on myself. However, I do think it pushes us to be the best writers we can be. Have you found particular places you do your best writing? For me, it’s in a coffee shop where I’m surrounded by interesting people who inspire me. Writing in my “happy place” has allowed me to quiet the judgmental voice in my head and focus more on the feelings that writing gives me. I know you think that being a perfectionist sucks, and it definitely holds me back sometimes. I think the key is to take the good with the bad and use perfectionism to your advantage. It makes writing a beautiful sort of challenge.

  3. Hi Lexi,
    Totally on the same page in that I am too a perfectionist when it comes to assignments. I still continue to go back and forth of how I want my final product to look. I can change things a million times and I would still feel as though it is not perfect. I think that hyperlinks would be a great alternative to the in text citations. I am repurposing a blog into an advice column, therefore, the use of hyperlinks would be very beneficial. I am also worried about establishing my own voice in my column. I think that if you exert enough effort into your topic you do not necessarily have to have a strong personal connection with the topic. I think if you go through a process of revisions I am sure you will find a balance of what makes a strong argument. Good Luck with the rest of your process!

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