B is for Badly

Celebrating the A to Z Blogging Challenge with quotations on the writing life.


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

G.K. Chesterton

As a writer—actually, in every area of life—my enemy is my perfectionism.

And fear. And pride. For I am reluctant to look like a fool. Or a raw beginner.

But without beginning, how can I hope to improve? The child in the photo is enjoying making his painting. He is dialed into the joy of the creative process and is not hobbled by perfectionism.

Here’s the thing. The desire to create art—or music, or participate in an activity—does not go away as we age. It lurks in the shadows, whispering, “You can do more than just slog through life.” And we wince because it’s true.

So, isn’t it time to put fear aside and risk doing something badly?


Photo: Johann Dreo (Creative Commons Flickr). Image is link.

30 thoughts on “B is for Badly

  1. Interesting … I just had a similar conversation with my oldest child yesterday. She recently started playing the guitar and was put out with me when I told her (after more than an hour’s practice) that it was time to put the instrument away so that we could eat our dinner and go to church. Her reasoning was that she hadn’t perfected the song she was working on yet. I understand desiring to perfect something … and yet, if I am only doing the activity to be perfect, along the way I will lose the simple enjoyment of it. There is balance, and sometimes when I enjoy writing the most are the times when I am not focused on the results but rather the process. Great quote!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, perfectionism. The fault that sidelines many a budding musician. (Well, that and the work involved in learning to pray).

      You are so right, Paige. When I push perfectionism aside and live in the flow and “whoosh” of the story, the results are so much better.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Perfectionism (is that a word?) is a real enemy of creativity. I’m glad I got over it. I make my writing the very best I can, and then I go on. I could rewrite 100 times and it wouldn’t be perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I ought to have persevered with the piano. Sadly, as a child (and even now!) I focused only on those things I naturally did well. There’s something about performance art, especially music, which forces one to “stand and deliver,” even though the results are less than perfect.

      The irony is that these less-than-perfect performances are the vehicle to improvement.


      1. I never do anything perfectly, especially music performance, but every attempt is a learning experience. If you miss a note, you have to let it go and continue the performance. Otherwise, that one missed note will cause you miss all of the following ones. You can’t let yourself think about it. You must move forward. I don’t know that anything else I’ve done has impacted me the way music performance has.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s exactly what I mean, the having to move forward anyway, in spite of mistakes. I have a lot of writing ahead of me today (in addition to grading papers and filling out report cards). I will keep in mind your advice to let it go and move on. Thanks.


  3. As an ultra-perfectionist myself, I understand this completely! There have been times when I let an opportunity pass me by because I was afraid I might not do well… but I’ve had to learn that perfection is impossible this side of Heaven, and that this is okay! We’re all just regular people, doing imperfect work to the best of our ability.

    Thanks for an insightful post this morning!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remind myself that God asks for faithfulness, not perfection.

      I’d so much rather that He required the former, because then I’d be off the hook! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, John Mark.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a wonderful reminder, Laura. I, too, struggle with not wanting to do something unless it’s done perfectly, and even then, it doesn’t work! LOL. I’m working on my newsletter and I’ve delayed it for 3 months because I can’t get the start right. The uncertainty of this new endeavor makes me procrastinate. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is a theme you’ll find running through most of the quotations I will share, Amy. Again and again I have proven to myself that an awkward beginning gives me material to improve—and the revisions always work out. And yet, I continue to procrastinate.

    Like you, I have found that the longer I delay, the more difficult starting becomes. Best of luck on getting that newsletter put into shape.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My mom is a pianist and piano teacher and she always used to counsel her students to make their mistakes out loud and big. I heard her but I didn’t understand her until just the past couple of years. Now I understand the value of exploration and failure.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I understand her completely. If your mistakes have the ring of confidence, 99% of the audience will never know you missed a note. I teach my piano students how to cheat during performance. Sell it with your facial expression and body language. Slow down and become very dramatic. Act like you meant to do it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Good point, Robin! I read an interesting blogpost within the past year about falling forward, failing forward, rather than backward. It was in the context of piano-playing, too. I’ll have to try to find that one again.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Laura 🙂 I’ve never heard that quote so a very intriguing post… and equally intriguing comments! 🙂 I also strive for perfection and my blog was to encourage me to start writing more! My recipes don’t always start out perfect but I wouldn’t get great results if I didn’t start somewhere! 🙂 Thank you. Life Diet Health (A-Z 678 atow)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your glass of green juice makes me smile. My grown sons (who would be rolling their eyes—“Eew, Mom, look, it even has FOAM on it like yours does”) would say that I’ve found a new friend.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I sometimes think my middle name is “Perfectionist” – *sigh*. Wasn’t it Voltaire who said “Perfect is the enemy of good”? I’m not sure but I like the idea. I’m striving for good – okay, excellent and if “perfect” is getting in the way, I guess I have to *gulp* let go of it.

    Thank you for reminding me I have permission to be bad.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s true, but the freedom of music is that it isn’t permanent unless it’s recorded – and I rarely allow myself to be recorded. Once the book is published, my child is there with all its imperfections.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cross-training with other artistic disciplines is an eye opener. I recall listening to a wonderful recording made by a friend who is a singer. I heard beauty, he heard the little mistakes.

          Apparently, a studio recording enables much “fixing” in the finished product. He told me that 80% of a performance is visual, and if you know your material and begin and end with confidence, the rest will take care of itself.

          Kind of like with writing.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ludwig von Beethoven said, “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play with passion is inexcusable.” Truer words about music were never spoken.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. You’re welcome for the nudge. There’s a reason I share these quotes with my students. It’s because I am the one who needs them the most. Down, dratted perfectionism, down!


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