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Saturday, January 10, 2009


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In all honest,y, Mel sounds a tad like myself. I do not mean or want to be, but I am also a perfectionist when I write. Unless I know everything I want to say, every quote I want to cite, etc, I have a difficult time getting started.

I cannot count the number of times I would start a paper (or book idea!) and stop myself after the first two paragraphs because I STILL don't feel like I have read enough or know enough.

The only thing that stops me from succuming to this and letting it overtake me is the knowledge that I can always go back and add, substract, or revise things, and the reality of deadlines.


Perfectionism is a curse! Leave perfection to the gods. The most that can be asked of a mortal is that he strive for excellence within the limits of time, talent, and circumstance. Striving is not achieving, and excellence is not perfection.

You will never get to the point where you have read all the literature on a topic, even a well-defined one. Some of the material is out of print or otherwise unavailable, some of it is in foreign languages. Should you hold off on writing something about mereology until you can read Polish?

Too much reading blocks the channels of one's own creativity. Forever reading, never read.

Writing for publication is the best concrete way of working out your ideas; so if you wait until you know exactly what you want to say before writing, you will miss the best way of determining exactly what you want to say.

I too recognize myself in this story- but with a difference. I have been diagnosed (many times over) with a severe case of OCD. Everyone is familiar with the standard washing and checking and contamination behaviors, but I hadn't realized that my OCD spilled over into academics until one day years ago when I needed two copies (because they had different introductions) of a book in a language I can't read!

Another example was when a very kind professor who had been very happy with my essays (and exams, and the discussions we'd had during the semester) and knew that I struggled with long writing assignments offered an me 'A' in a course based on the work already completed if I merely turned in something (anything) that fulfilled the requirement set out for the term paper. It could be blather and not make a difference!

At first this seemed like getting out of prison (I'd become so anxious about completing writing assignments, that this was how I thought of it.) with time served. The grade was a given- just write anything at all! Then I realized that I just COULD NOT do it. I took an incomplete and spent the whole summer vacation writing the paper anyway.

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