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The Dangers of Perfection According to Anne Lamott

Writing a book is one of the most challenging tasks an artist can do, not because of any physical demands, but because of the emotional and mental hurdles you’ll need to overcome. People often turn to writing guides and manuals to help them learn when they begin writing.

One of the best manuals you can use is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. As the name suggests, this guide will let you know everything there is about writing and life.

This had become a hallmark in her writing style, both her fiction and nonfiction books. Whether it’s about religion, alcoholism, or the struggles of depression, Anne was not afraid of exploring these ideas and sharing her struggles with them. More importantly, she understood how learning about these issues can make you a better writer.

A common misconception people have about writing is that to create something good, it is only about understanding the fundamentals. Yes, there are many writing rules you will have to learn at some point, but knowing that doesn’t guarantee you’ll make something good. Writing is also an emotional investment.

When you are writing, you are putting yourself on the page, your beliefs, actions, and emotions are all there. It is why so many of the best writers were able to rise to the top because they understood that fact and put everything they had into it.

With that in mind, the common idea people have is that they want to put their best foot forward, to appear as perfect. That is an admirable idea, but it is also dangerous. Perfection is a fine idea, but just that an idea.

The truth is no one is perfect and no matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and by accepting this, we can overcome a major hurdle to becoming a writer. Anne believes that trying to chase down this unobtainable idea will only hinder us. Instead of moving forward, it leaves us obsessed with trying to change and perfect everything we make. It’s like a dog chasing its tail and instead of moving forward, you move in a circle.

This must have been a difficult lesson for Anne to learn. She was the daughter of a well-known writer, Kenneth Lamotte. While this must have inspired her, it must have also given her big shoes to fill. But instead of judging herself based on what someone else wrote, she believes the best course of action is to write what you think is best and continue to improve.

All of this can be summed up here with her advice.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

-Anne Lamott.

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