Wreck This Journal: Embrace Imperfection


I’ll be the first to admit I am a perfectionist.  Even though I am a wanderer and I enjoy fits of whimsy, I’m also very neat and organized.  Just to give you an idea of how nutty I am about this, here are a few examples I would normally never admit:

  • My desk at work is so clean, it looks like its never been used.
  • I use a bubble level when hanging posters to make sure they are perfectly straight.
  • I keep pens separate from pencils and regular markers separate from Sharpies.
  • It bothers me that Whiteout leaves a bump.
  • Uneven shoelaces drive me absolutely bonkers.

If I spent every waking moment bowing to these neuroses, my creative spirit would never have a reason to live.  Wreck This Journal has reminded me over and over again the importance of imperfection.  There needs to be a mess every once in a while.  Things need to be crooked or jumbled or there would never be a need for imagination.

The page below seemed very simple at first glance, but it challenged me almost immediately because of those little dashed lines.  My perfectionist tendency told me to stay on track, keep it straight, don’t go outside the lines, even though I knew that wasn’t the point.  To give my compulsion some satisfaction, I began to color neatly within the lines.  Never once did I dare to let my crayon wander.

When it came time to start tearing, my first impulse was to carefully follow those lines. I almost had a heart attack when the first tear had the nerve to curve at a weird angle. However, once the damage was done, I actually found myself reveling in the imperfection.  I kept tearing and purposely went off track so a single tear would bleed into another color and bypass those dashed boundaries.   Then I took a crayon and scribbled over the directions with a haphazard scrawl.  Just call me a rebel.

When I look at this page, I can see the facet of my personality that strikes a balance between the neatnik perfectionist and the free spirit.  Somehow these two polar opposites compromise on a daily basis without causing utter chaos.  I am simply amazed how coloring and ripping a few strips of paper can lead to so much self-awareness.  Or a little thing called self-forgiveness.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome as a writer is allowing for imperfection.  The first draft is all about making a ton of mistakes and letting them remain mistakes.  No matter the sting, those misspelled words, run-on sentences, and irrelevant passages must exist.  And I must forgive myself for making every mistake, for every error is a means to a finished piece.  All those imperfections that drive me batty need to breathe or the real story will never emerge.

(Though, I must admit my desk remains clean and my shoelaces even.)

– – –

Previous Wreck This Journal Posts:

Letting Go

Keep Reaching

Ignite the Spark*

Be Unpredictable

*Interesting note: In the newest edition of Wreck This Journal, the “Burn this page” has been removed.  Perhaps too many people ignited the whole book?  Regardless, find a blank page and whip out that lighter!  Creative spirits must ignite the spark.

c.b. 2011