Posted in Life Musings, This is real life.

Perfectionism, Procrastination, and NaNoWriMo

Today, as I was tutoring a student after school, I reminded him that I needed to be leaving, in my car, at 4pm.

“Oh, you got a hot date, Miss?” he asked.
“Nope,” I replied. “I have this training to go to about a book study. We’re reading this book on Perfectionism, and it’s really very interesting, so I’m excited to see what types of conversation come up tonight.”
“Miss, why couldn’t you have just let me believe you have a hot date?” he lamented.

Okay, so maybe I should have given the kid a break. I know my students like to be able to pretend that I have a life, and I try to indulge them, but I also have this thing about not lying to the kids that makes it hard to do that sometimes.

Which is why what I told my student was true – this book I’m reading? Phenomenal. Exactly what I needed to read for what I’m working on in therapy, which is sorting out who I am.

I’ll certainly be doing another blog entry on “My Life as a Perfectionist” or some droll title like that soon, that will encompass all of the ridiculous insights into my personality courteousy of this book study, but that’s not tonight. Tonight, I’m going to focus on just one part of one insight I gleaned from these other peoples’ genius:

How my Perfectionist Procrastination is Busted by NaNoWriMo.

The perfectionist-slash-alliteration enthusiast in me wishes that somehow Nanowrimo started with a ‘P’ but I’ll live.

In this swank book I’m reading, which is entitled Perfectionism: What’s Bad About Being Too Good?, authors Miriam Adderholdt, Ph. D., and Jan Goldberg  cover all aspects of perfectionism, its causes and its effects. They’ve come up with so much insight into the minds of perfectionists that is a revelation to me that I need some time to fully process all of it.

There was one thing, though, that struck a chord with me right away: perfectionism as a root cause of procrastination.

Now, when I think of perfectionists, I don’t think of procrastinators. Rather, I think of those people who spend hours of time – usually weeks before a project is due, not mere half-days – working to get everything just so. Our authors, however, point out that many times, procrastination can act as an insurance policy for perfectionists. They put off the chance of failure until there’s not time left – it has to be done NOW, and these perfectionists shift into high gear as they rush to throw this project together at the last minute.

Needless to say, quality suffers. But in the perfectionist’s mind, that’s okay – because how can you possibly do a perfect job when you simply don’t have enough time?

GOD, my mind is so brilliant to work that out and build in a defense mechanism that lasted from middle school all the way through high school with me consciously noticing a thing!

Of course, this brilliant defense mechanism backfires on me creatively all the time.

I’m a writer.

It’s taken me a long, long time to say that about myself, and I’m still not 100% comfortable with that assertion, but just to make my therapist proud, I’ll say it again:

I’m a writer.

I write all the time, but I rarely ever finish anything that’s longer than 10,000 words or so. In fact, I feel like if it weren’t for what’s known as the psychological concept of Flow (yet another separate blog you’ll be seeing soon), I might not ever get past a few paragraphs at a time.

The only time that I can actually make myself sit down and finish a full-blown novel (or at least 50,000 words of it) is during NaNoWriMo.


Because they’ve already done the procrastination for me!

See, it’s not natural to just start and finish a full novel in 30 days. So you go into it already behind. You’ve got 30 days left to finish the book you haven’t even started: get to work. And you have to! Plus, once you’re already deep inside, that desire to slack off for just one day is diminished by the fact that you KNOW how many words you have to write. The little ticker things keep it going for you. You know how many words you’ll end up doing if you slack off today.

So you don’t. Because you don’t want your life to suck tomorrow. And God forbid that you let yourself fail – you’re a perfectionist, failure is not an option.

You get it done, you take care of business, and – just like procrastination – you’re not so concerned with getting things just right because if it’s not the best thing you’ve ever written, so what?

You just wrote a fucking book in 30 days! OF COURSE it’s not perfect, how could it be? So I’m safe – I can just sit down and write without having to go back over and over and over again.

Editing? Ain’t nobody got time for that shit in November!

That’s what makes NaNoWriMo work for me, folks. I hope you can make it work just as well on your turf.

BTW, I’m already ahead, bitches. 15,508 words and counting.



We seek to learn, and when academics do not present the answers, we look inside our own beautiful imaginations for the key.

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