I have always known that I suffer from a perfectionism complex. So when I heard the quote, “Perfectionism is the mother of Procrastination,” my ears perked up. Finally, I understood why I’d been putting off certain tasks that I told myself I wanted to get to.
As a storyteller, I have put off making a CD of my work. I thought about it once, but then it went to the back burner where it’s been for the last four years or so. Why? Because I’m worried that I won’t get it “just right.” I’m worried that it might be a flop. And how many times a day do I find excuses to delay working on one of my writing projects for the very same reason?
I spend hours Googling other storyteller’s CDs, listening to tracks here and there, reading articles about producing a CD or writing books, but despite all of this “research,” very rarely do I move myself closer to my goal. Instead, I lose valuable time and in the process find that now I’m even more concerned that I won’t be able to live up to my perfectionist ideals. So maybe it’s not worth starting.
This whole idea has been revolutionary to me in my professional life, but today I was shocked to find the same principle at work in my prayer life. I don’t feel like a very good “pray-er.” I’ve read about all sorts of different prayer methods – from the ACTS outline, which says that every good prayer is comprised of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication in that order, to those who say that prayer is more about listening and being still before God than talking.
So when I think about praying, I have this feeling that I’m not going to get it right. And what does that do but make me less inclined to want to spend time in prayer! When I do sit down and attempt it, half the time I’m so worried about the form that the content suffers severely.
Today I realized that what I’ve been trying to do is “edit” my prayers. And honestly, it makes it hard to have an authentic conversation when you’re busy editing. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s the difference between chatting with your best friend and delivering a speech to an audience of 3,000 strangers.
In the former, you let it fly. You trust that your friend “gets” you, and that even if it comes out all over the place, your friend will understand. In the latter, you plan for hours. You systematically order your points. You practice your enunciation. The strangers in your audience cannot be expected to try to follow your ramblings.
As a writer, both the form and the content are important to me. But the interesting thing is how the writing process is structured. Most writers agree that the content comes first. That is, you lay it all out there on the first draft. You pour your ideas onto the page. You don’t worry about going back to add a comma or fix a misspelled word.
You don’t edit as you go because editing stunts the creative process. It hinders the progression of the story. (Not to mention the fact that the act of creating and that of editing are handled by two different parts of the brain. So in some ways, to try to do both at once would seem to put them in competition with one another.)
So back to prayer. Today as I started praying, I felt like it was coming out all discombobulated. I felt the need to start again. Try to put it into a more coherent form. I felt the need to “edit.”
But then I stopped myself. I said, “God knows that I am discombobulated. He knows that my ideas are random. All over the place. So I guess it’s no small miracle that my prayers come out the same. But who better than He to help me make sense of it?”
I took a deep breath. I started again. I let it all out. I stopped worrying about “getting it right.” I told Him everything – even the silly little things that would make me sound petty if I said them to you. I figured He already knows, and if it’s irritating me, I might as well get it out in the open
I’m sure some would criticize my form, but I’m okay with that. Because I think my Heavenly Father got it. I think He gets me. And I think sometimes I have to worry less about “getting it right” and more about just getting to it. Maybe Nike was on to something. . .
So I leave you with this question: What are you putting off because you’re afraid that you won’t get it right?