Monday, January 08, 2007

The Perils of Perfectionism

Author of The Artist's Way and many other books on writing, Julia Cameron, has just published a new memoir, Floor Sample: A Creative Memoir.

She talks about her struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction as well as the pull of madness--electricity becomes dangerously charged, trees vibrate, melodies overwhelm her consciousness. She stops sleeping and eating and ends up hospitalized. It's a compelling portrait. I found one anecdote particularly poignant.

Through a friend, Cameron was able--many years ago--to send a few short stories to a New Yorker editor. The editor thought the work was promising, good in fact, but a bit heavy on sunsets and roses. Clearly the editor was interested and willing to take another look at the stories, if revised.

Cameron was so ashamed that her work had seemed overly romantic and sentimental that she put the stories away--she didn't revise and send them again. Hyper-sensitivity to criticism and hpyer-perfectionism squelched her. This is so sad and so common.

Have you ever had this problem? Write about a time when you gave up due to criticism rather than respond with positive action. How could you have responded differently? How will you respond differently in the future?

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