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


36 thoughts on “Wreck This Journal: Embrace Imperfection

  1. I, too, am a perfectionist and it is really nice to hear that you struggle with this in writing and your advice of self-forgiveness is especially important to hear. Thank you for saying that the imperfection needs to exist in a first draft. I needed to hear it and it is a relief, because I know you’re right!


    • I learned it the hard way, but it was worth the struggle. I became a better writer the moment I realized every piece has to start somewhere in the realm of imperfection before it can be what I envisioned. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and don’t forget to forgive yourself for mistakes. 🙂


    • I think its easy to forget the importance of the “mess” because everything we read is a final draft. After delving into the whole process, I look at the novels on my shelf with a different perspective. I wonder how much of a mess each author made before their book made it to my shelf. 🙂


  2. The way you write about yourself is always refreshing. How you make note of the little things. That shows in your writing. Your detail is a mixture of chaos and neatness, the little bits of life that make your stories come to life.


  3. oh man I could so relate to this post! it always amazes me how i can have such a creative spirit and yet be so totally OCD at the same time. sometimes i wonder how i ever get anything creatively accomplished.
    and i have to say again, your writing is so beautiful and true. i always feel like we’re getting a peek at your soul. love that!


    • I don’t know how I get anything done either! Aside from Wreck This Journal, blogging has helped, too. Instead of pouring over a piece for weeks, I posting on a regular basis has helped me be more accepting of what I write in a shorter span of time. Otherwise, I’d be spending my whole life rewriting instead of writing – each has a place, but with balance. 🙂

      Thanks so much for the compliment on my writing style. I’m so encouraged to keep writing. 🙂


  4. I’m by no means a perfectionist, but I find it impossible to write a first draft through without fixing things again and again. I’ve made a vow, though, that I will one day soon, write a first draft without looking over my shoulder. It will be tough.


    • I haven’t been able to do it yet, either! Lol! I still go back and fix things, but I’m getting better at going with the flow. We just have to keep telling ourselves “that’s what the second draft is all about!” 🙂


  5. The more you reveal your neat-nik, the more I see myself as a polar opposite. If you could only see my desk right now: on top of…under…to the side…on panels above my head… lots of piles of papers etc. etc. YOU would go absolutely crazy, but somehow I manage. Instead of Wreck This Journal, I need Straighten this Journal!


  6. I think your desk staying clean is absolutely fine, as long as you’re able to let yourself go when it comes to neatness in your writing. As you said, first drafts tend to be, and are supposed to be, messy, and that’s absolutely okay.

    It’s incredible how much insight this journal has helped you find. It’s absolutely inspiring.


    • It seems writing and creativity are the only two realms where I allow myself to be messy. Wings of Wonder got me thinking about this and it made me look a little closer at my space at work and at home. My desk at home is a disaster – piled with notebooks, drafts, and sticky notes, but my desk at work is immaculate. I wonder why? Hmmm . . . maybe another Wreck This Journal will clue me into this conundrum.

      I just recently looked at my novel’s first draft. I used a total of 10 different colors in terms of highlighters and pens. Stuff is crossed out, arrowed, and scribbles litter every corner. It’s a delightful disaster. 🙂


  7. very cool book! I was not surprised by your confessions of being ultra-organized, especially having read your post on your character-development notebooks 🙂
    This sounds like a fun journal. I may have to try it out!


  8. I am not organized but if my work doesn’t show quality or effort then I won’t do it at all so I think that makes me a perfectionist too. You are right. Imperfections are needed since perfection often works against the drive for completion and imagination. Glad you are having fun with the journal!


  9. “Somehow these two polar opposites compromise on a daily basis without causing utter chaos.”

    I grew up in a lively environment with a tendency to chaos. I countered this by turning to perfectionism, and despaired when I discovered that “perfectionist” is not the same as “perfect” 😕

    I developed my own training program in order to find my point of balance: Not to use a ruler for drawing straight lines, leave unwashed cups by the sink for later, stop wearing make-up, not iron anything that can do without,… I began to experience that life can be fun, and that simplifying processes to the essentials (relative to the desired outcome) saves a lot of time. One of the major steps – or rather: jump – was to move from Germany to Greece more than ten years ago. In the beginning I struggled a lot to accept this different lifestyle, but it was exactly what I needed in order to find my own way.

    Through oscillating between the two poles we arrive at wholeness 🙂


    • I admit I left dirty dishes in the sink tonight so I would have a few extra minutes to write tonight. Though I did leave a very clean desk at work when I left on Friday. I love my two halves and I don’t think I’d want it any other way. It’s seems you’ve found the same sort of peace within yourself. 🙂


  10. Wow – what amazing insights from such a simple exercise. I love reading about your forays into the Wreck This Journal. I also love how you find deeper meaning and symbolism in things that other people would just think were silly or mundane.

    I repeat: I REALLY have to get this journal.


    • Yes, you do. 🙂

      When I started writing after a long dry spell, the biggest thing I realized is that the best stories hide in the little things. If I don’t look beyond the obvious, I won’t be able to find the stories I’m supposed to write. 🙂


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