• Esther Harder

Perfectionist Parent Publishes in a Pandemic

College applications trained me to consider my value as equal to the number of responsibilities I could manage. I became adept at ball-juggling as a result, which has helped me become a solid managing editor who can keep track of an absurd number of yet-to-be-completed tasks. But what the admissions counselors and ball tossers don't tell you is that there are limits to responsibility juggling. Eventually, your arms and hands can't keep up, and those balls are going to fall.

a number of table tennis balls bounce on a white and black background
Photo by Ellen Qin on Unsplash

TLDR: I'm still a parent publishing in a pandemic, but I've let the perfectionism slide.

The Perfectionist

Put yourself in my shoes: I'm a trained perfectionist. Trained, not in the license-on-the-wall sort of way; more in the angel/devil clinging to the shoulder and butting into every decision and action sort of way. At some point, I accepted that those shoulder voices would have a say in my work, and instead of working to please myself, I spent a lot of time (and tears) working to please them.

When my life was just me, myself, and I (and the shoulder voices), I had time to devote to perfection. I spent hours typing and retyping chapters. I quested after that holy grail of finally making it. Of typing THE END, and voila! The work is so perfect that an agent, better yet, a publisher knocks on my door and demands that my laptop get shipped directly to the press, do not pass go, do not collect your wits about you.

But perfection has this quality of always being just on the horizon. One more polish, just one more, and you'll get there. Only you don't.

The Perfectionist Parent

So rather than reaching perfection, I became a parent and took a giant leap away from perfection. Being a parent is a whole lot messier than being single, or being married but childless. This messiness is more than just dirty diapers. There are cars and balls and bits of cracker cluttering all surfaces, even the surfaces of your mind. Time becomes messy. Tasks are jumbled. Thoughts are jumbled. Life is a jumble.

Rather than walking away from perfection right then, I turned life into a project management opportunity. If I could just organize, monitor, and break down all tasks into nap-sized chunks, there would still be enough hours left in the day. (Just don't look too closely at the carpets.)

The Perfectionist Parent in a Pandemic

But then a pandemic engulfed my life project. I already worked remotely, so my day-to-day tasks did not change, but my comfort net of friends went virtual, then more or less absent. I'm a not-so-secret introvert, so at first, the mandate to not leave the house was a pleasure, until I came to the realization that our apartment is only so big, and there's not a lot of space for me to gather my thoughts, aka eat my chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream in peace.

This would have been a really good time to leave perfectionism and my life management project behind, but instead, I thought if I just tightened up the task flow, everything would be okay. And the project limped along. (Just don't count the brownie mix boxes in the trash.)

The Perfectionist Parent Publishes in a Pandemic

That was the point of [insert your chosen descriptive noun here].

There were a lot of great reasons to publish right then, at that time. (Read about those reasons here.) And seeing Quarantine Kids, holding it in my hands, that's a gift. The surprising gift though is that the amount of tasks I needed to accomplish in this self-run, self-publishing project pushed me so far past what I could manage on my own that I had to make a change. I couldn't change my context (pandemic, parent), and I didn't want to leave my publishing project after coming so far, so the perfectionism had to go.

The arrival of the books signaled a change in the production process; I had moved into the marketing and distribution stage, and there was a lot to do. A lot of platforms to get set up on. A lot of people to contact, a lot of content writing for advertisements. So many aspects I had not done before. My perfectionist self longed to sit and polish keywords and ads for hours. My parent self reminded me I was on the nap clock, and time was ticking. Someone would wake up and demand food or play and would not be content with sitting by while I stared at a screen.

Rather than striving for perfect, I've switched into going for good enough and have become very fond of the edit button on these various virtual platforms. Everything's spelled correctly and gets the message across? Great. Click, send it out into the world. We'll figure the rest out after we've all had our snack and afternoon walk.

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