Perfectionist Seeking Happiness

Browsing in an art store, I found someone who picked up my book, Raw Art Journaling. I watched, not knowing if I should say “thank you for looking at my book,” or just not say anything. Deciding that saying something might make her feel pressured to buy it, I decided to say nothing unless she put it in the shopping basket. Which she did. So I stepped up and said, “Thanks for buying my book. If you want, I’ll sign it for you once you are through the checkout line.” She looked at me and said, “This is a joke, right?”

“Nope, I’m the author. I can show you my driver’s license.”

“So, did this book make you happy?” She asked

“Well, I was already happy, but this book makes me happy, yes.”

“Do you have the perfect job being a writer?”

Ahh, someone in search of the perfect. “I do. I own my business and I do more than write, but I love it all.”

She looked doubtful. “So you don’t have problems? Or days you hate?”

“Well, sure,” I said. “I hate administrative work, and I hate when I feel overwhelmed from time to time. I also hate it when it looks like there won’t be enough work. But as a recovering perfectionist, I realize that if it comes down to the day when I have completed it all, and done it all perfectly, there will be no challenges left, nothing to look forward to. I think perfection would be, well, boring.”

She looked at me for a long time. “So if your life is not perfect, how can you think it is?”

I smiled. “There is a Zen saying, ‘Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” The difference is what you think of the work, and how you approach it. If everything is a drudgery, my life is drudgery. If everything is a chance, an opportunity, a fresh approach, well, then, I’m more enthusiastic. It’s not life. It’s how I tackle it.”

She looked at the book. “Write that in the book, about enlightenment.

And so I did.

–Quinn McDonald is the happy author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art. You can buy the book on this page of her website and get the code (way at the bottom of the page) for free shipping in the U.S. through December, 2011.


22 thoughts on “Perfectionist Seeking Happiness

  1. I love your book. Last evening I learned of a friend who is going through major life changes and would benefit from owning it. Guess I will just have to get another copy…

  2. What fun to watch someone choose your book! Yay for you going up to her!! And, very interesting questions she asked. Great answers on your part, also!
    It’s exciting to see your book doing well and all the positive reactions to it and to the workshop in the ART group!! VERY EXCITING!!!!!!

  3. Hi Quinn,
    You are way braver than me. I think if I saw someone picking up a book I had written, I would watch and listen, but not speak up! I would have to get out of my comfort zone on that one. Glad you felt OK with it!
    And her comments to you! How very strange. No social amenities there. Sounds like someone is either in therapy or needs it. Hah.
    Take care.
    Vicky F

  4. It must be pretty awesome to watch a shopper pick up your book, look through it, and decide to get it. And even better, choosing a book and then have the author come up and say hello! Nice…
    Now to the question, “are you happy?”…wow, that is a loaded question for sure. So, is happiness having a published book? Could b one definition of happiness, yes indeed.

    • It is a HUGE thrill so see someone pick up your book. I held my breath. And then she decided to buy it–I nearly cheered! But a lot of people think that there is a final goal–like writing a book–and when it’s done, well, then, you are happy. Like reaching Nirvana.

  5. I loved that post because I’m a perfectionist, too. I also loved your indecision about approaching the shopper and her final comment as well. Thanks for sharing!

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