There comes a time when I find myself staring at my latest book in Scrivener, all ready to release it. I’ve poured hours of my days into this work, and now that it’s ready, I want to just put it out there for people to read.
Except that I hesitate.
Andrew, my loving husband, will ask me how it’s going and I say it’s going fine and it just needs a few more tweaks and then it’ll be ready.
Another few weeks, same question. That story is still sitting on my computer, but I haven’t put it out yet because wait a second, I should change how that character is acting in this scene, and are you sure that seems realistic, and oh GOD I SHOULD JUST REWRITE THIS THING ARRRRGHHHHHH.
Sorry for the all caps, but that’s how I feel. Rather than being relieved and enthusiastic to put it out, I start tweaking parts until it’s my idea of perfection. Because that’s what I strive for: for every work I put out to be perfect. I want people to like it. Because I’m a people-pleaser, much to my own chagrin.
I sat on my book Back Bay for months before I put it out there because I wanted it to be as great as it could be. I had that file open most days just tweaking things because I couldn’t stand the thought of having a little typo here or a slight continuity error there. I wanted my first impression to count. Until finally my husband had to tell me to release it already, and I did.
It’s the same with my music.
I have no problems composing or recording music. But putting it out there for everyone to hear?
Not so much.
Because I constantly wonder if what I’m making is good enough.
And as a result, I have a REALLY rough time letting it go.
Several times in the last few weeks that I’ve been seriously recording songs for my next music project, I have wanted to just scrap the entire thing. Because I’m so afraid that it’s not good enough for people. I’m trying some different things with my voice on this album and though I’ve gotten positive feedback from my friends and people at my online shows, I was still so afraid it wasn’t good enough.
And yet I want to share it with people! I have spent so many hours working on my writings and music, after all!
Yet I have such trouble releasing things, that I have to be convinced that what I’ve done is good and to just put it out there.
I know I’m not the only one who has these troubles. I think it comes with the territory of being a creative person. You’re intensely self-critical. And what you’ve done is personal to you! You’re the one who made this thing. You’re the one who put the time and effort into it, so why not make it the best it can be?
But there comes a time when you have to just step back and go, “This is how I want it and I don’t care what other people think. This needs to go out there. The world needs this.”
Because you can’t please everyone.
And that’s OK. Everyone has different tastes. Some people like romance novels (I don’t). Some people like heavy metal (I don’t). My husband prefers sci-fi stories while I prefer reading historical fiction. Different things for different people. Don’t worry about trying to make everyone happy. Just put it out there.
And most of all, I have to remind myself that perfection doesn’t exist. You could spend years trying to tweak something you’ve made until you think it’s perfect, and by then, you might have even lost the heart and soul of why you made this thing in the first place.
I won’t go into the long history of my own confidence and self-esteem issues, but suffice it to say, despite what you might think in reading this blog entry, I’m a lot better than I used to be when it comes to being self-doubting! But it still comes up. And I have to remind myself that perfection doesn’t exist and to just not be so self-critical. I will hear things that aren’t there. Literally, I will play something for my husband and cringe at something I hear, but which he doesn’t. He’ll tell me “I don’t hear that at all.” I can’t tell you how many times my husband has had to talk me down and remind me that I’m doing well. It just doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the middle of a self-critical mood. It helps to have other people to look at what you’ve done so they can get you on the right track and get you out of your own head.
That’s important, just getting feedback from other people and hearing what someone else thinks about it. Someone else who isn’t so attached to it like you are.
How many times have I heard of music artists that are so afraid of releasing something that isn’t perfect that they take ages between albums tweaking what they’ve done? (Kate Bush, I’m looking at you.) I don’t want to be like that. I’m really working hard on not being such a perfectionist. And I have a feeling it’s just something I’ll have to work on for years. It’s a part of my personality. I just have to learn to control it.
Otherwise, nothing would get released. And I can’t have that!
Instead, I need to just release it already.
Because perfection doesn’t exist.
And most of all, it is good enough for people to read (in the case of my books) and/or hear (in the case of my music).
Release it already.
You’ll be glad you finally let it go.