Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity – Part One

Bird by Bird: Anne Lamott’s Timeless Advice on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity

pt 1 bird by bird

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.

I started writing when I was seven or eight. I was very shy and strange-looking, loved reading above everything else, weighed about forty pounds at the time, and was so tense that I walked around with my shoulders up to my ears, like Richard Nixon. I saw a home movie once of a birthday party I went to in the first grade, with all these cute little boys and girls playing together like puppies, and all of a sudden I scuttled across the screen like Prufrock’s crab. I was very clearly the one who was going to grow up to be a serial killer, or

pt 1 6 birds on a log in a row

keep dozens and dozens of cats. Instead, I got funny. I got funny because boys, older boys I didn’t even know, would ride by on their bicycles and taunt me about my weird looks. Each time felt like a drive-by shooting. I think this is why I walked like Nixon: I think I was trying to plug my ears with my shoulders, but they wouldn’t quite reach. So first I got funny and then I started to write, although I did not always write funny things.


All I ever wanted was to belong, to wear that hat of belonging.

In seventh and eighth grades I still weighed about forty pounds. I was twelve years old and had been getting teased about my strange looks for most of my life. This is a difficult country to look too different in — the United States of Advertising, as Paul Krassner puts it — and if you are too skinny or too tall or dark or weird or short or frizzy or homely or poor or nearsighted, you get crucified. I did.

Writing is “…some sort of creative or spiritual or aesthetic way of seeing the world and organizing it in your head.”

“…the thrill of seeing oneself in print,” – highest form of existential validation.

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all what it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.


pt 6 3 owls on a tree branch

7 thoughts on “Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity – Part One

    • I love to write and try not to put too much pressure on myself. Getting new ideas and exploring them is great fun and exciting. I am working on finding a balance between all the expression I want use. It feels like it may be coming together. Poetry is main but I love words and using them to create stories. And I love to paint. Plus film. What does one do? I try to do them all. Whatever feels right at the moment. The strongest pull. I do have goals of wanting to put together books but more to have a story or collection to hold in my hand and if good enough to share it. I did share one novel and that was a great experience. One chapter a week. It needs rewrites but I will leave it for now. I am working on the second half. A sequel-stand-alone mash-up of a wild adventure to places never seen in exactly the way I am trying to tell it. Tell me I will find the time. All the time I need and the courage to set her free. Silly me. I believe in Serendipity and the Muse and Imagination and such fun things. xox jk


    • Yes, a good inspirational – involve yourself in what you are working on. It’s all in the writing – painting – storytelling – poetic expression. Its own reward.

      A quick question. About 7 days ago you left me a comment. May have been on either of our blogs. I will give you what I remember. It included a mention of Shakespeare In Love and being free when creating. I hadn’t had a chance to check my comments. But I saw this comment today. I was writing a response when both disappeared, what we both wrote. It was a great topic of discussion. Was just about to send. If you remember it let me know where you might have left it and I check around. Weird. – jk


Leave a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.