When my oldest kiddo was struggling (read: simultaneously wilting and raging) under the burden of second grade spelling homework, I scheduled a conference with his teacher.
Mrs. Roche and I sat in the tiny plastic chairs at the kidney-shaped laminate table, and I explained that homework was taking us three hours of tears every night. Was there anything I could do besides sitting with Josh and pressing his nose to the grindstone?
Mrs. Roche looked at me like I was crazy. "The assignments should take about twenty minutes. He should be able to do them without you standing over his shoulder."
Here, I simultaneously wilted and raged. "But he won't."
"Then let him fail. Maybe then he will care enough to try."
"But thinking he'll fail is what keeps him from trying now!" I wailed.
Her eyes softened. "Ahhh, is he a perfectionist?"
All of the air left the room. Realization and guilt and relief exploded through me. She understood. I understood. "Yes!" And he inherited it from me.
Then she said something that has changed our lives. "Let's try this: set a timer for twenty minutes, and what he gets done is what I'll grade."
Permission to do less than perfection? Space to do the best he could at the time and not worry about the rest? Was there even such a thing?
How I wish I had had a second grade teacher like Mrs. Roche! Oh the things I have not done because I feared I could not do them perfectly!
I grew up believing if a thing was worth doing, it was worth doing right. I almost gave up on my dream of writing because I am not a person naturally suited to the social interaction that seems to be required in this age of "platform" and "web presence."
However, I've learned, if something is worth doing...
...then, good grief, it is worth doing.
It is worth doing imperfectly,
with what time you can spare,
even if don't think you can do it right,
If something is worth doing,
it is worth doing until you can do it right.
I might never be a good blogger. Social media intimidates me. I cannot afford a professional website, and with seven kids under the age of eleven, time and energy are hard to come by, but...writing is my dream, my gift, and my obedience.
If writing means struggling through the social media/ querying/ marketing learning curves, I will. I worked hard to write until my manuscript was ready, and now I will work hard until my ability to market myself and my work is ready. I will not self-doubt myself into paralysis.
Today I sent my query to three agents I would be thrilled to have represent my manuscript. I stopped the two years of telling myself my timing was not perfect yet that I had been wallowing in since the first (and last) time I sent a query to an agent.
And my query was not perfect. I even caught a typo in the first letter I sent. (Ahhh! Regret. Regret. Regret.) However, I am so glad I sent three imperfect attempts instead of none. And a blog that is a work in progress is better than no blog.
I will get better. Josh did. He rocked his STAAR test and was recently commended for being a hard-working student who goes above and beyond. I trace his success back to that moment when he was first given the freedom to try without the yoke of needing to be perfect.