The case for imperfection

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
Henry van Dyke

I have been accused of being a perfectionist.   It always makes me bristle.  “Ridiculous!”  I shout.  And, as proof,  I argue that my work isn’t perfect.  Turns out,  That is a classic symptom.  So is my tendency to take waaaay too long to do just about everything,  typically a result of redoing or overthinking or restarting or, worse yet,  not starting.  All in all, strong evidence of a perfectionist – or at very least, perfectionist tendencies.

It is not like I don’t know I’m doing it.  I am aware that that I am taking too long and tell myself to consider it done and move on to the next thing.  And I do to – you know, right after just one last adjustment.  It is time to get that under control.

I need to let it go so I can accomplish more in less time.   And finish more.  Take for example past efforts to keep a journal – or blog for that matter  – to track progress.  Inevitably I miss a day and then feel compelled to ‘catch up’  before moving forward, which obviously somewhat defeats the purpose.

What was my point – oh yeah, not a perfectionist.

Perhaps I could stretch the truth just a little and claim to be a ‘recovering perfectionist’ (read that somewhere at it appeals to me).  I’ve made some progress but not nearly enough.  It is time to again take up the charge and embrace imperfection.

Perfection stifles creativity AND productivity.

Aim for progress, not perfection and just get started

 

 

 

 

Aim for progress.
Aim for excellence.
Be realistic- about time, expectations, and resources.
Don’t wait for the perfect time.
Start today.  TAKE ACTION NOW!!

If you have stories to tell, don’t let perfection be an excuse for getting started. Don’t worry that you have all the details exactly right.  Do not stress over finding the perfect font, the ideal picture the best quote.

Even the biggest failure beats the hell out of not tryingGet it started.  You can always refine or revise – to a point of course.

Progress, not perfection!

 

 

 

Where are you on the perfectionist scale?   Are you a perfectionist and proud of it? A sometimes or situational perfectionist? A denying or recovering perfectionist? Or perhaps you are the polar opposite of a perfectionist – would that be an unperfectionist – or maybe anti-perfectionist?

Share strategies you use to make sure that perfectionism doesn’t become procrastination.

Recording Oral Histories

Capturing stories before they disappear

I have been working on designing a variety of memory quilts.  One that I want to do is a tribute to my Mom and Dad.  Whenever I work on that, I am grateful for the time that I spent with them talking about family pictures and stories but I always wish that I had recorded more of their stories  more formally.  And definitely with some vocal recordings.

Recording history

Do your parents have a box of old photographs with no identifying features?  Does your favorite aunt keep trying to give you memorabilia from her days as a roving reporter?  Does your grandfather regale you with stories and offer you tokens of his adventures?
 
You might value the collections and want to restore them for display and sharing.  Or it might be that you want to learn the stories behind accumulated stuff that has come into your possession.  Or maybe you don’t even want all the treasures but  you  want to be sure that their tales are not lost.  Whatever the reason, now is the time to record some of those details.
  • Sit down with your Mom and Dad and have them tell you about the people, places and events in those old images.
  • Interview your aunt about her days on the beat and have her tell you about the people she met and the meaning of all that memorabilia.
  • Listen to your grandfather retell his stories and hear them with new attention – ask questions, make note and seek details.
Taking the time to do this will ensure that history is not lost.  Start now.  Make a date to connect.  Don’t wait and later regret not asking the questions.
 
It is not really that long ago that the source of much of our family histories were from the oral tradition and reminiscences of people who lived it.  Maintain that tradition and speak to older family members to learn about your family history.

8 Tips for conducting an oral interview

  1. Ask permission to take notes or record the discussion.
  2. Have a list of questions to start the conversation but don’t be too tied to a specific list or order. Be able to change course according to the whims of the speaker.  Ask follow-up questions and be flexible.
  3. Start with brief, biographical questions for context and to help your subject relax.
  4. Use open ended questions that invite a detailed response rather than a yes / no answer.
  5. Give the person time to think and answer.  Be prepared to wait and learn to be comfortable with silence.
  6. Be an active listener and check understanding of words, phrases and references.
  7. Rather than one long marathon session, plan on multiple smaller ones.
  8. Make notes shortly after the conversation while it is fresh in your mind.

Most people welcome the opportunity to share their stories. For you, it can be gift, a chance to spend some time connecting with family and friends.  I remember a few sessions when I encouraged my parents to label pictures and they brought out one of the boxes then went back and forth with stories while I noted details on the backs of the photos they described. Those were fun evenings with lots of laughter. I feel lucky to have shared that time with them and only wish we had done it more often.    Now they have gone and there is still so much I wished that I had asked.

 Time to connect and gather the stories is never wasted. So, you might want to decline the generous offer of a stuffed swordfish but don’t miss the chance to hear its meaning.  Invite Gramps to pose with his trophy fish and tell you again about the day he caught it – and how it fought the good fight.  You’ll be glad that you did!
 

10 Resources to help you tell your story

writerquotes_Patterson

How you choose to tell your story can be as individual and unique as you are. Here are 10 resources that might help you to write or record stories that keep people reading or listening.

1

One of my favourite sources of inspiration these days is Ted.com where there are short (average around 15-16  minutes) but powerful presentations on any topic.  There are also playlists to help you get started or choose talks around a particular theme.  Here is a good place to start for storytelling:  TED Talks Playlist – 6 talks on How to Tell A Story 

There is sure to be some inspiration in these entertaining and informative presentations

General writing tips

2

Want to write fiction? Here is step-by-step process that you could also apply in your own stories.
http://www.storyjumper.com/main/starter

3

Writing tips that are helpful whether you want to write biography or fiction.
http://goinswriter.com/writing-tips/

4

Quick tips for telling your story – public speaking or otherwise.
http://csi.gsb.stanford.edu/how-tell-your-story-impact

5

Reasons you should tell ALL your stories.
http://michaelhyatt.com/tell-your-story-the-good-and-the-bad.html

6

Resources and tips for preserving your life story.
http://www.your-life-your-story.com/whatandwhy.html

Oral history and digital storytelling

7

A not for profit organization dedicated to preserving oral histories for Americans of all backgrounds.
http://storycorps.org/about/

8

Helen Bartlett offers plenty of links to sites with digital storytelling resources.
http://electronicportfolios.com/digistory/

9

Center for Oral History and Digital StoryTelling
http://storytelling.concordia.ca/

10

For an extensive collection of literary resources, you might want to visit the Great Writers Inspire blog.

These are just a few of the wide and seemingly endless variety of inspirational sites and books.  Please share your favorites in the comments.

Rewriting your story.

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back….

That is how Marc Chernoff starts his powerful article on 30 Things to Stop Doing To Yourself.  Marc and his partner, Angel Chernoff,  started their popular personal development  Life Hack blog in 2006 and now have more than 130,000 subscribers.

Everyone has days when they want to shake things up and make a new ending.  Sometimes it is hard to find the strength or the direction.  If you are looking for a great resource, pop over and visit Marc and Angel’s extensive library of articles for inspiration and motivation.  You are sure to find something to help you rewrite your own story.

 

Long time listener…

…first time caller.

I heard this on a radio call-in show when I was driving this afternoon.  I don’t often listen to call-in shows but it seems whenever I catch one, at least one person makes this comment to begin their conversation.  Today it occurred to me that is a bit of a rallying call for action – a decision to do something more involved.

Almost two years ago (is it really that long already??), I  decided to cut way back on my time on line.  I was spending much of my working day on the computer for my job at a not-for-profit, and more hours weekly for client work on a small home business.  To find some balance, I wanted to spend more of my own time on other projects so I stepped away from some forums, shut down my blog (no loss as I hadn’t really built much of a following) and drastically reduced my other social media time.  It was not a difficult transition but life changed, as it continues to do.  My work responsibilities evolved and I had less computer time so I renewed some of my online contacts.

I started Keep the Stories to promote an idea that I had had in the back of my mind for some time.  It related to my business and some personal challenges to organize and reduce.  I started with enthusiasm, a growing list of ideas – and the best of intentions.   I did the first few posts and was getting a rhythm, building to more frequent posts but then lost any momentum while I was waiting.

Waiting to resolve some technical issues… waiting for the ‘perfect’ idea …waiting for the right picture for the header… waiting for enough time to write extra posts to catch up on missed days …waiting for the brilliant idea to launch with a bang … waiting for things that were not going to happen.

It is time to stop waiting – time to stop just listening and make that first call.  Time to start with one post and then the next one.  To write when the mood strikes and not wait for some big inspiration.  To tackle the technical issues – or not – as they come and do what can be done.  AND to not worry about gaps in the posts but to plan to write with some regularity and consistency.

It’s a perfect day to start

Long time reader, first time poster?   Well, not exactly first time but first this time.  As the Chinese proverb says “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The next best time, is today.”

Fall is here, leaves are changing.  It is a perfect time of year for new beginnings.

Are you ready to make that first call?    Perhaps it will be to literally make a call but maybe your call to action will be to write a letter, take a trip, clean a closet, end a bad relationship, look up an old friend….   How will you take action today?

5 things educators can learn from J.J. Abrams’s TED Talk | EdTech Avenger

This article was from some time ago but it appeared in my social media feed again this week and it still rings true.

——-

Mystery can be an amazing inspiration for telling and keeping stories.   When J.J. Abrams’ spoke at TED, he talked about how mystery drives his interests – AND his storytelling.

5 things educators can learn from J.J. Abrams’s TED Talk | EdTech Avenger.

Why tell your stories?

Who is your audience?

There are two possible audiences for your stories – you and others.   The motivations for reaching either of these audiences might vary greatly and probably blend together.  Do you know why you feel compelled to share your story?  The reasons might help you decide what and how you choose to share.

Do you write (or sing or paint or…) primarily for yourself?

Expressing your stories can help you document your experiences, recall pleasant moments, uncover lost memories, release anxiety, put things into perspective, process learning, [re]discover insights, clear your mind, overcome challenges, inspire creativity, drive action or any of a myriad of other emotions and benefits. Whether your story prompts positive or less positive reactions, the process of telling them can help you better understand and appreciate who you are and what makes you one-of-a-kind.

Do you want to share your story with family, friends – or the world at large?

You are unique and your story might help others to better learn about you and maybe even more about themselves.

Your story might:

  • help your children and grandchildren know you better.
  • lead family members to understand more about their personal history and influences.
  • encourage people battling similar challenges or roadblocks that you have met or overcome.
  • inspire new ideas, new approaches or new appreciation.
  • make someone laugh, smile, cry, scream, rage, dance, run, write, share, think …

Why do you tell your stories?

What stories do you want to tell and how will you share them?

Write a new story

On my last post Preparing to ‘let it go’, I wrote about approaches to get a realistic assessment of a situation in preparation to let go of lasting regrets or self-recriminations.

Easier said than done

If I express regrets, friends often advise me to ‘just let it go’ or ‘move on’.  Unfortunately, I have  that suggestion rarely, if ever, is accompanied by any strategies for doing that.  Those of us with the tendency to hang on know that ‘just letting go’ is easier said than done. It isn’t like you can hit the delete button or even more simply, just stop thinking about it. I wish that I could easily do that. Believe me, I have tried! But my success rate is, at best, mixed and usually short lived.

I have tried asking people what they do, how they ‘just let it go’.  The usual response is “I don’t know, I just do”.  Not really too helpful as a learning tip.  My husband, who, at least on the surface, is able to put things behind him, expressed some confusion at the question.  When I asked him how he moved on from something, he replied with “I don’t understand how you can’t.” He did have interesting observation though.  He said the difference between the two of us is that I still think that I can fix it while he feels that it is past and finished. Hmmm. Actually makes sense, though might not get me closer to a strategy.  I do hate it when he makes me think like that.

I did get some more direct responses to asking people what they do. One friend told me, she repeats this little mantra to herself: “quack quack – like water off a duck’s back” to help gain perspective.  It might sound to simple but that is the beauty of it. It doesn’t have to be a complex solution, just something that reminds you of the goal to let go of the negativity and prepare to move forward with more positive energy.

Rewrite your story

I have used some of the information that I gathered to create my own simple 3 Step Strategy:

STEP 1: Describe the event. Be realistic.

Be realistic and objective about the event / issue / comment.  Give it a name. Get more detailed steps in Preparing to let it go.

STEP 2: Replace regrets with positive action.

Can you ‘fix’ it? Should you try? Is there something that can or should be said or done now?  Would it be possible to clean up or backtrack?

This is not the time to do something that will stir up old anxieties, regrets or rivalries so before you say anything, ask yourself is it true? is it kind?  is it helpful? If you answer no to any of these questions, do yourself a favor and make it part of what you are letting go.

If you believe you can still do something positive, do it.  Don’t hesitate.  Take action now. Pick up the phone, write a letter, send a text  or extend a hand. Make the first move. You’ll feel better for taking action, especially if it has the potential to make a difference.  Even if you are not successful at driving change, you can tell yourself that you did what you could and accept it as done.

If there is nothing that can change the source of regret, learn from it. What will you do differently the next time or with the next person? How can you share with others and help them avoid the same mistake?

Replace regrets and self-doubt with something more positive. How can you break the pattern? Try to move from regret to learning, from a holding patter to action, and from recrimination to forgiveness  -of yourself AND others.

STEP 3: Create a ritual.

Give yourself a signal that it is time to let go. Don’t worry if it seems silly or too simple or a waste of time. It is just for you and if it makes you relax, forget or laugh, all the better. Here are a few ideas.

  • Write it down using the name you gave it in Step 1. Tear or shred and recycle it, throw it to the wind or burn it.
  • Write your story in a journal – and literally close the book on it.
  • Write it on sand and let it go as the waves wash it away.
  • Talk or shout it away.  Tell your persistent issues that you are through thinking about them and are moving on.   You might want to do that on your own where nobody will hear you or you might decide to share it with friends. Maybe share a meal or a few drinks and make it an event.  Needless to say, don’t make a public showing if it is later going to cause you regrets.

Today I close the door to the past,
Open the door to the future, 
Take a deep breath
Step on through
And start a new chapter in my life.

Author Unknown

Those are my three steps. The process is still evolving so let me know how it works for you. And please feel free to share any suggestions for modifications.

Good luck.  And here’s to fresh starts and new stories.