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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Practically Perfect in Every Way

Have you ever had to interview for a job and they ask you what your worst quality is? I was dumbfounded to be asked that at my first job interview. I'm here to sell myself and tell you just what a fabulous human being I am and make you believe that you'll rue the day you didn't hire me for this minimum wage job making sandwiches (oh yes, I was a sandwich artist) and you want me to tell you what I most suck at?

But I'm like a cat- I landed on my feet. (And I'm apparently full of cliches today. Just go with it.)

My greatest fault? I'm a perfectionist. Hard-core. If my house isn't spotless, I have issues. If there's a stack of papers waiting to be graded on my desk I become obsessed with getting through that pile as soon as possible. If there's a plot issue in my book it will haunt me until I find a solution.

All of these can be good things- no one is ever grossed out coming to my house, my students get feedback on their work as soon as is humanly possible, and I keep plugging away at my novel. But there are also a lot of drawbacks.

I can't relax. I have too much to do. Even my pile of books I want to read sit in their corner, taunting me with my failure to get to them. And I've noticed this nasty little trait is getting worse. I've only got three more years until I'm the age my mom was when she died. It's like a ticking time bomb, a constant reminder of all the things I want to do before I die.

Before you think I'm crazy (I am, but it's not certifiable. Yet.), I don't think I'm going to actually die in three years. I just always told myself I'd get the big stuff out of the way just in case I don't live to be 105 torturing my great-great-great-grandchildren by pulling my dentures out and chasing them around the house with my walker.

Anyways, what I think I'm trying to get at is that I have a great motivator to get my book done and travel the world, but it really doesn't mesh well with the perfectionist in me. I seriously need an extra five hours a day to accomplish everything I want to at any given time. Because it all has to be perfect. The first time.

So, do you have a trait that gets in the way of your writing? Or something strange that motivates you?


Tamika: said...

I'm inconsistant. I begin a thing and never complete it. The shame the rues my members!

Writing has been the first thing I attack with resolve, I'm determined to see this through to the end.

Matthew Delman said...

I'm with you on perfectionist ... but only with my writing oddly enough. In other things I'm kind of lackadaisical -- drives my wife bonkers too.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I'm a procrastinator. I can come up with a million reasons for why other things (like cleaning my house) need to be done first. I have to work hard at not letting my writing be the "ugly step-child". ;)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Tamika- I've done that with some projects, but I find I usually go back to them. Sometimes it just takes a long time.

Matt- My husband drives me bonkers too! I think it's a requirement that husbands drive their wives nuts.

Shannon- One of my quotes of the day last week was, "I'm going to stop procrastinating, when I get around to it." -Anonymous

Bethany Mattingly said...

I'm extremely detail oriented. I think that helps and hinders my writing. It helps because I can figure out what I want and write it out fairly easily, most of the time. It also hinders because I end up with a 130,000 word book. I have to go in and cut out all the scenes I don't really need. I like to know what my characters are doing every minute of every day and really I don't need to know it all, to get the point across. It's not easy having to cut my baby book to pieces.

Susan R. Mills said...

I procrastinate. I used to be a perfectionist too, but I gave that up as soon as my kids became teenagers. It's just not happening anymore.

Bane of Anubis said...

My trait is that I'm OCD about tasks, which is odd given that I'm type B in most things (except writing), so if something comes up, I need to address it immediately -- not always perfectly, but usually efficiently.

Abby Annis said...

I'm a perfectionist too. I really need to stop finding reasons to revise my novel. It gets a little annoying sometimes. :)

Voidwalker said...

That's funny. I'm the same way. I'm a perfectionist as well and I see pro's and con's of it coming into my writing.


I also used to be a sandwich artist. LOL. Subway in Peoria, AZ.

L. T. Host said...

I know what you mean on the ticking time, Stephanie. My sympathies for your loss as well.

I have quite a bit longer-- three and twenty years, in fact, before I reach the age my father was when he died. But I have a lot of goals in the meantime. And I feel a bit of pressure to have kids because I want to spend as much time with them as possible. I don't want my kids to go through what I went through at fifteen, should I have inherited the genes that would bring me to an early grave. (Sorry to get all morbid in your comments).

But I also want to be successful, and I'm not a patient person. I'd say my impatience is the biggest trait I have that works against me. Luckily, WB is pretty good at balancing me out-- he's patient to a fault. :)

Just Another Sarah said...

Perfectionist is the quality I list for myself, as well, as a bad trait.(And it does keep me from my writing, sometimes. Nothing is quite right, so it can't be seen yet.)

It's a scary question to answer - but it does bring up points of interest.

Dawn Simon said...

I'm a perfectionist, too! I agree--there are pros and cons to this. One way you and I differ is that while my house is clean, it's only uber organized and never spotless; I bet my husband would love it if I got the spotless OCD thing. ;) But like you, I am sooo focused. Problem in my book? MUST SOLVE NOW. Too bad sometimes the problems require time, rumination, and wrong turns (how NOT to fix it).

BTW, the first time I was asked the worst quality question was at my college interview!

Thanks for the visit and the follow! I like your blog! :)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Bethany- HATSHEPSUT was originally 115,000 words and that was before I wrote the last three chapters. I started revising and chopped a bunch before I finished the book so I'll never know how long it really was, but I'd say close to 125,000. It's now down to 96,000, according to Word's count.

Susan- I only have my daughter so I've managed to cling to my perfectionist tendencies. I know if I had another one those would fly out the window and I'd end up in a padded room.

Bane- Ahhh... One of those mixed up people. :) Sometimes I wish I was Type B!

Abby- I'm worried I'll never be done revising. I know I'll always be able to find a work that's out of place.

Voidwalker- Sandwich artists unite! I worked at the Subway in Eagle River, Alaska. :)

L.T.- I'm sorry you had to experience what I did. I was 12 when my mom died- she was 32. It really shaped everything about me from that point on.

Just Another Sarah- It is a scary question, isn't it? I felt like I was in a therapy session when I wrote the post.

Dawn- Thanks for the follow! I'm glad I'm not the only one with tunnel vision.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

lol, that is so the same one I always used in interviews because it's actually a positive on the job. Then as a recruiter I found myself asking this inane question. Funny thing was, some people were like honest, like really honest. Duh, please don't tell me that you have a problem sticking with things or keeping your cool. Seriously.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Roni- I always made my Consumer Econ kids do job interviews with me and I asked that one. Most of them were painfully honest. I like to think I've sent some kids out into the workforce who will be prepared for that question.

Lisa and Laura said...

I'm sorry to hear about your Mom, Stephanie. And I can so relate to your perfectionist issues. People wonder how we write and edit so quickly and it's because I'll drive myself crazy until it's perfect. I'm still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to writing...I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.

Laura Martone said...

I'm with you, Steph. A hard-core perfectionist all the way. And it drives. My hubby. Absolutely bat-shit.

But he seems to love me anyway. At least, I think he does. :-)

Laura Martone said...

And, yes, I'd like to second Lisa and Laura's statement. I'm sorry about your mom - that's very sad to lose someone so young - and I can understand why her fate might drive you... but don't forget to stop and smell the roses (hey, it was only fair that I use a cliche, too).

Just Another Sarah said...

Yes! I think that I was asked that at almost all of my job interviews. The first thing that floated through my mind was, "What? Don't ask me that!"

Writing is therapeutic, anyway. :) It's good to have an outlet for that!

sanjeet said...

Writing has been the first thing I attack with resolve, I'm determined to see this through to the end.

Work from home India

Lorel Clayton said...

I do too many things at once, which makes it difficult to get any one thing completed. On any given evening, I'm usually cooking, trying to feed the cats, editing one book, writing another, reading a fiction book, a non-fiction book, planning something for work, watching the documentary on TV out of the corner of my eye, and trying to listen to what my husband is saying.