Confessions of a Master Perfectionist

by Zachary Totah


Everything has to be right. Better yet, perfect.

Or else panic, chaos, the end of the world.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration (emphasis on “slight”), but so much of the time it seems all too true.

Welcome to the life of a perfectionist.

Did you know Perfectionism is one of the leading diseases afflicting otherwise healthy humans? It afflicts young and old, male and female.

I fell prey to perfectionism at a young age. Through my formative years and now into young adulthood, I’ve become a master at demanding nothing less than the absolute best. Which leads me to today’s confession.


Pains of Perfectionism

Usually when somebody says they’ve mastered a skill, we consider that a good thing. After all, deep down I think we’re all jealous of the “masters” (Paula Deen, Gandalf, Yoda). However, when I say I’m a Master Perfectionist, it’s not really a badge of honor.

Let’s face it. Perfectionism is a bane on productivity, happiness, and most other useful things in life.

Sure, aspects of it can be helpful. For example, my perfectionism means I have a high attention to detail and am inclined to focus on quality. If you’re a fellow perfectionist, try nurturing those habits without letting the Big Bad Beast gain the upper hand. We know it’s there, lurking, eager to undermine our goals.

I’ve struggled with this in many areas. As a writer, I’m always comparing myself to other (and, without fail, more successful) writers, thinking I’ll never live up to the required standards, viewing my work through a lens tainted by the persistent demands of perfectionism.

It’ll never be good enough. Why would anyone want to read my work?

So the thought process goes.

Another huge problem with letting our perfectionism rule our lives is that it erodes our willingness to take risks, try new things, and get outside our comfort zones.

I present to you Exhibit A: my blog.

As a writer, I knew I wanted to start a blog to build an audience (because of course I needed a way to become a wildly successful author *cough* idealist *cough*). I’m going to be frank. I waited WAY too long to start that puppy. I researched, read other blogs, scoured the internet for options and choices.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It took me two years to start. Even though when I finally began I felt more equipped to launch into the blogging world, that was two years I could have spent actually writing, learning, improving, building my audience.

Lesson learned.

If you find yourself nodding and thinking, “That sounds like me!” here’s some chocolate.

In all seriousness, I get it. I’ve been down the path more times than I care to remember. And the thing is, when you let perfectionism run wild, what happens to the opportunities that come your way, the hopes you have, the dreams you want to chase?

Chance after chance passes by because it’s not the perfect fit.

Hopes become jaded because your expectations are set too high.

And the dreams—they slowly die. Because with perfectionism whispering in your ear, telling you it’s never good enough, you never start chasing those dreams.

It’s all too impossible and big and scary. What if you fail?


Should We Fear Failure?

So many times, I’ve let that fear be the driving factor behind decisions I make. Fear of failure and perfectionism go hand-in-hand. We don’t want to fail, so we try to be perfect. At the end of the day, such thinking doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s like planning the perfect vacation (touring Europe, anyone?) and then never leaving because what if things go wrong?

That’s my default mindset, and it’s crippling.

I love how Seth Godin puts it:

If failure isn’t an option, then neither is success.

Think about that. You can’t succeed unless you’re willing to accept failure at some level. Which means we need to face this beast called perfectionism.

All too often, conquering it seems like an impossible mountain to scale. Mount Doom perched atop Mount Everest…on the moon. As I said, I’ve found perfectionism crippling. I don’t take risks, pursue potential opportunities, or follow my dreams as well as I could.

Let’s flip the situation around. Instead of considering the problems, focus on the possibilities. What would happen if you pushed aside your perfectionist tendencies and went for it, whatever “it” is for you?

Would you trip up? Yep.

Would everything go according to plan? Nope.

Would you learn and grow and do things instead of living in a try-to-be-perfect but boring bubble? You can count on it.


To all my fellow perfectionists out there…

Try new things.

Take risks.

Get messy.

Learn from your mistakes.

And most importantly, don’t let perfectionism keep you from following dreams.


Author Bio:

I wear many creative hats, one of which is to write speculative fiction stories. This allows me to roam through my imagination, where I have illegal amounts of fun creating worlds and characters to populate them. When I’m not busy with a thousand and one responsibilities, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, digging into a good book, and watching movies.

I live in Colorado and don’t drink coffee. The two aren’t related.

I love connecting with other readers and writers, so don’t be shy. I keep my superpowers in check. Promise.








Confessions of a Dreamer in Search of Wonder

by Patrick Carr

Most of my dreams are unpleasant. I don’t know if I’m alone in that because, frankly, I don’t want to know. Yet, I suspect that like a lot of people my brain goes to work at night trying to find solutions to the conflicts and confrontations we experience during the day. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a math teacher in an urban school setting, so I live, eat, drink, and breathe the pressure that comes with public school education every day. Naturally, some of that stress spills over into my sleep.

But there are times I have these dreams filled with wonder and I wake and it’s as if I’m a child again experiencing the world for the first time. This in itself would hardly be worth mentioning except to say I hope everyone has them because I think they’re a gift from God. But as they say in the commercials “but wait, there’s more.”

These dreams, the ones I long for, these rare respites from thistles and thorns aren’t unconnected. Weird, right? I don’t mean that I will have continuing dreams several nights in a row, although I wish “wonder” would visit me that often. It’s stranger than that. Years, sometimes many years, will go by and a long-forgotten dream will come back to me and pick up where it left off, like a favorite college-friend who drops in on your doorstep unexpectedly to say hello.

I had one of these sublime visitations last night, which is why I’m writing about it. My amazement and longing is still so fresh, I doubt if I could write about anything else. What fills me with wonder? That the answer is surprising to me perhaps reveals how little I know myself, but to understand last night’s dream, I will have to relate the details of its predecessor.

I find myself in a library. It’s not overly large and certainly not modern. There are no computer stations and there are all these old-fashioned card files to help the patrons find their books. The shelves are hardwood and they lacquer on them is dark with age. Though well-lit, the library has a bit of a dusty smell and the books are all hard-bound copies and the binding is the heavy duty type with embedded fabric without ornamentation. Only the titles are on the cover.

I love libraries, especially one with hardbacks and I’m browsing through the shelves when I find a series of thick books in my favorite genre by an author I’ve never heard of before. I pick up the first book in the series and I start to read.


The story is perfect. I’m so overwhelmed by it that I’m completely captivated. Not only does the story enthrall me, it gets inside of me. It makes me a better person. It’s literally the perfect story.

I’m filled with wonder.

I’ve lived and breathed fantasy for years. Why haven’t I heard of this story and this author before? Here I am, holding in my hands huge volumes of the best writing I’ve ever read and I’ve never even heard mention of the author. I sit on the floor, so lost in the writing that I don’t want to move, half-afraid the books might vanish.

The dream ends.

Now, understand, this dream came to me decades ago, but last night I got the sequel.

I’m wandering in the countryside. I live in Tennessee so there are a lot of places even close to Nashville that are half-a-breath away from being completely rural. For some reason in this dream I’m walking and I come upon a hollow. For those of you who don’t speak the southern vernacular, a hollow is the fold between two hills. Unless you go right up and into the crevice in the land, you’d never see whether or not there’s a house there.

I enter the hollow using a dirt road of southern red clay – there are hills all around – and I see a house. When I look at the mailbox, I realize it’s the home of the author of these amazing books. He lives here! I’ve stumbled on the home of the greatest fantasy author ever to set pen to paper.

It doesn’t matter that he’s not home. It’s the middle of the day and I know he’ll be back before long. I settle myself to wait for the man who wrote the story that got inside of me and filled me with wonder on every page.

And that, fortunately or otherwise, is where the dream ended. I don’t know what the author looks like. I don’t know if he’s a nice old man or curmudgeonly with age. I only know that I’m filled with wonder and longing this morning.

I’m also resisting the urge to interpret the dream. I have no desire to explain the points in both dreams and their obvious symbolism. They’ve worked their magic on me and I find myself unwilling to reduce my wonder to the level of prosaic explanations.

However, I will say that I hope and pray you have a similar experience. I hope you get to read the perfect story and find the author, even if it’s just in your dreams.


Author Bio:

Patrick W. Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of cold war tensions. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee.

Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer.

Patrick’s day gig for the last eight years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist, and he wrestles with the complexity of improvisation on a daily basis. While Patrick enjoys reading about himself, he thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.