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Empty Notebooks, Perfectionism & Allowing Myself To Start Small


“Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.” (Anne Wilson Schaef)

I have a lot of notebooks.

Fresh – beautiful – colourful – notebooks. In fact, I could open a stationary shop with the amount of notebooks, papers and pens I own. What they all have in common, though, is that they are empty. I never want to start writing into them, because nothing I could write or put into them feels special enough. I am forever waiting for “something special” to write into my notebooks.

My notebooks lie untouched in the shelves and are denied their notebook destiny. Similar to the FRIENDS episode where Phoebe mourns all the Christmas trees that will not fulfil their Christmas destiny because they are considered too ugly – just that I find my notebooks too beautiful, and my words and sketches too unworthy of them.

In fact, my whole life feels like a beautiful – but unwritten – notebook. Even though I have gotten much better in filling my life with all the things I love and that inspire me, I have never allowed myself to go “crazy;” to truly follow the eccentric, creative way I so long for and envy in others.

Everything about me is still so very – controlled. By perfectionism and the fear of failure.

Even though I have given myself a “do what you want-be creative and free” allowance for this year, I feel scared of my blog, my Instagram account, my Facebook page and any other platform I need to design and fill with content or value. For me, they are all like notebooks full of fantastic potential, and I am so frightened I will not be able to live up to them.

That I or somebody else will open them, and think: Wow, what a fantastically huge pile of crap – and bad handwriting too!

“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” (Michael Law)

Naturally, this leads to a complete mental and physical paralysis. I freeze up. I stop writing and posting. I stop creating content. I feel scared to start, because I don’t know how to make it perfect. I feel overwhelmed by having to know how the finished product will look, and how to find out what I as a person and brand want to look like.

The underlying truth behind this is that I am too impatient to allow myself to learn and grow at my own pace. I want to “be there,” I want to already have a recognisable brand, I want to be known as a person who helps others, I want the results – but I am not willing to allow myself to start small and insignificant.  

I am not willing to have 10 completely hideous notebooks, in order to learn how to fill one up perfectly.

MakeUp Artist and Youtube sensation MadeULook Lex had a fantastic response to people who were trying to start where the people they admire were after many years of hard work, without going through the same process of starting out with something potentially crappy and ugly:

[…] When I first started on YouTube, I never expected to be where I am today. I never thought I would reach even 1,000 subscribers. […] I experimented. I started on my webcam on my Mac laptop, edited with iMovie, and my lights were lamps. I sat on my bed and balanced everything. I put blankets all over my bed so I wouldn’t get makeup on them, and I filmed. It was awkward, it was weird, and I had a lot to learn. I knew what I had, and that was passion. I loved creating characters, and I always had a dream to inspire others. […] I always get asked the question of what camera do I use, what lights do I use, brands, brands, brands. […] There is no certain way to do things. If you are just starting, LEARN. Teach yourself. Were here to guide you, and help you, but if you start off with everything that the “pros” use, you WONT LEARN. Start small. Work with what you have. Improve, learn from yourself, learn from others. WORK your behind off until you achieve what you want. […] If you ever feel like “YOU CANT AFFORD” “IS THERE A CHEAPER” ETC, YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, you just have to WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, and work your way up to what your heart desires. […] (Find the original here) 

Remembering her fantastic reply, I took out one of my notebooks and reminded myself: I do not have to be there yet. I want to allow myself the joy and fantastic journey of starting out and inventing myself. Observing, where doing whatever I want, and how I want, will take me.

I know that this works, as I have experienced it with my Facebook page: When  I started, I had only one set of photographs and no idea what I was doing, and what I was doing it for. Today, a little over a year later, this same Facebook page has enabled me to find my passion and purpose. A year of allowing myself to grow and experiment, has lead to so much more than I could ever have hoped for.

With this in mind, I opened my notebook and SCRIBBLED! I spent ten minutes just drawing lines and shapes onto an entire page, not caring what it would look like.



What a liberating feeling!

Instead of thinking about how to write something beautiful or perfect, I dedicated an entire page to chaos, imperfection and ‘not knowing’. It is now already one of my favourite pages. It allowed me to experience creative freedom. This page, this post, this blog etc. is not the be all and end all.

I can allow myself to scribble in life, and see where it takes me.  And then I can turn it into something fantastic and valuable, once the ‘first draft’ has been taken from my mind and brought into the real world.

“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you go, and fix it along the way…” (Paul Arden)

Now I feel excited about exploring who I am going to turn into and where that will take me. There is joy in having no legacy and being able to invent and reinvent myself based on what feel right and true to me at any given time.

I have this strong feeling of trust within me. Like with my Facebook page, I KNOW that allowing myself to create, explore and fail will bring me many gifts and possibilites.

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. (Greg Anderson)

Today, one scribble turned into a post, and maybe it turns into inspiration for someone who is facing the same struggle and needed to read these words.

Take care,



The Good Enough Creative

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  • Nancy Wepunkt

    also wenn Du die Bücher nicht benutzen willst, ich nehme sie. 😉
    Gut zu wissen, dass andere auch so abstruse Gedanken haben. Früher dachte ich auch, ich muss in dem neuen Buch ganz sauber und ordentlich schreiben und es muss perfekt sein. Aber die Perfektionismus-Masche konnte ich (auch in anderen Bereichen) allmählich ablegen.

    16/01/2015 at 12:52 PM Reply

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