I haven’t been able to write in the past couple of weeks. Well, that’s not really accurate. I haven’t been able to ponder, get inspired, plan, write, meditate, edit, rewrite, tweak, and sleep on it before pushing the “publish” button. But today some work, poorly done, inspired me. And I’m choosing to skip all of the other steps I typically require of myself and just push the darn button.
This afternoon I pulled weeds. At least the weed tops. I cleaned up the backyard. Just around the edges. I washed the patio. Not the moldy bits that need the power washer and a scrub brush. But the first layer of accumulated crud that’s not been touched while we’ve focused on leaving our old life and packing up for our new one.
Splashing water on long-neglected plants that were either overgrown or shriveling, the thought came out of nowhere: “I’m enjoying myself!” The lavish greens reaching right up to the sky, blue and white and sunny, feeding my eyes and my soul. The sound of the fountain my husband built soothing my nerves and speaking to me in something other than words. The joy of working alongside my singing son. As I stopped to grab hold of the moment, another thought popped into my head: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”
I grew up on the saying, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” The parental appeal to “just do your best” became fundamental to my worldview. When I grew up, I found myself among others of my own kind. Perfectionists. We didn’t call it that, of course. We talked about “excellence” and “development”, “integrity” and “modeling”. Even about “living our faith”. Some of us even felt that our “best” was the standard for doing something well. And in a culture steeped in evolutionary thinking, “your best” always needed to get just a little bit better. Those things “worth doing well” needed more effort than they did last year or yesterday. In the end, the belief pushed me to fear, exhaustion, disillusionment and more recently, thank God, to a reformulation of the old adage.
If I never do anything except the things I can do “well”, well, I will never do anything. And I’ll miss out on the satisfaction of ½ pulled weeds, the beauty of an overgrown garden, and the pleasure of wet feet on clean-enough cement.
I think that’s all I've got right now. This time I’m not going to try to improve it because if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.
Jo Parfitt (www.joparfitt.com) introduced me to the medicinal “shitty first draft”. Her writer’s workshop last March changed the way I saw writing – and myself. This blog – and a book that’s in the works – began as a direct result of her training and affirmation. Jo’s most recent book, A Moving Landscape, is “a memoir in poetry of a life overseas”. I can’t wait to read it!
What are you not doing because you can’t do it “well”?
Today, doing something you’d like to do without concern for getting it right or doing it well. Go ahead! Give yourself permission to do it poorly. In the doing of it, stop and feel the joy. And, if you’re so inclined, ask God to show you what “doing it poorly” has to do with living your faith.