Perfectionism Sucks, Daily Effort Rules

In November, I re-committed to daily practice: spending some time every day writing, drawing, exercising, and meditating. Except for exercise, five minutes of effort counted, but I hoped for more most days.

I’ve been doing this since July, but I needed the re-focused effort in November and planned to treat myself at the end of the month with a celebration. As it turns out, I did not need a celebration or a reward because–even though I’ve spent two decades cursing the phrase “It’s the journey, not the destination”–the daily effort was its own reward.

About 20% of the days I skipped practicing at least one commitment, and a few days I missed all four. Four proved to be too much.*

(*The ideal for me is to write, exercise, and meditate daily. If I can fit in some time for drawing once a week, that’s perfect, but trying to do it daily was too hard and resulted in shabby drawings because I was always rushing. Also, when I say “meditation,” that might sound more impressive than the reality. Sitting up straight in a chair and managing ten calming belly breaths while I try to keep my mind still equaled success. If I can do more, that’s great, but most days, those few minutes have long-lasting effect. )

I learned that I can miss a few days of practice, have a few days of low productivity or low-quality effort, and I still accomplish more than if I didn’t TRY to work every day of the week. Perfectionism sucks. Daily effort rules.

NOT writing left me feeling unfulfilled. The rest of my life is satisfying, productive, useful, but without writing, I felt lost and frustrated. Good to know, right? It didn’t even matter if what I wrote that day was “good” or whether I completed anything.

It simply feels good to try.

Also, when you write every day, ideas don’t go cold. An idea you have on Monday turns into a paragraph or two by the following week. The compelling ideas stick with you, and you find yourself thinking about them during non-writing times.

The daily effort made me more attuned to opportunity. Instead of wondering (sometimes lamenting) what to write about, I saw prompts everywhere. I think the daily effort gave me some confidence so I didn’t shut down an idea one millisecond into thinking about it; everything gets a chance.  I started to take myself seriously as a writer, so I looked at grants and calls for submissions as if they might actually apply to me.

At some point, adding a thought now and then to bits and pieces of writing needs to come together with some goals for completion, but I think I need another month of daily effort. January might be my goal-setting month, and since this daily effort has revived my optimism and confidence, I’ve started to let myself daydream and take those imaginings seriously. So, we’ll see. Big Ideas forthcoming perhaps.

For now, here’s to another productive month! Thanks for reading!

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About TRISTA

I write and illustrate stationery, cards, customized snail mail (yes, you can receive handwritten and illustrated letters in your mail!!), coloring books, and more. My business name is "Carrot Condo." After teaching English for 15 years (gasp!), I am now a full-time parent and part-time artist slowly, but steadily, building a creative business and life. You can read more at carrotcondo.com or see my products at etsy.com/shop/CarrotCondo. Thanks for your interest and support!!
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6 Responses to Perfectionism Sucks, Daily Effort Rules

  1. Katie says:

    My requirements are writing and yoga. I don’t feel like myself unless I can do a little of each at least 5 out of 7 days a week. Thank you for the validation of effort. We can all get so caught up in the destination that the journey is lost (or is a misery). I can’t wait to see the ideas that have been marinating during your last months of daily effort.

    • tristac says:

      Oh, “marinating.” I like the food metaphor! It still surprises me that “a little of each” almost every day is enough … that it doesn’t have to be a Big Time-Consuming Effort-Filled Hour or Three. (Although, I still daydream of having those big, open hours to really sink into a project. If I ever get that kind of time, I bet I’d sit and sip coffee for 2/3 of it!)

  2. Rose L. says:

    I have felt unfulfilled due to the lack of writing. The other night our little group of poets gathered at as friends home and we wrote and it actually made me feel better.

    • tristac says:

      Yes — I spent time writing a good, old-fashioned journal entry yesterday, and I felt great. Who knows if that material will turn into anything more formal, but my head/heart felt much more clear and less cluttered afterward.

  3. Cristina says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. It’s persistence that gives us the real pay-off. Even a little bit of time every day given to what we care about makes a big difference. And missing a day here and there, or even a few in a row, doesn’t matter. What matters is to persist, go back to the practice that is at the core of what we have to give, and gives back to us in feeling whole, centered.

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