June 1, 2008 § 3 Comments
While struggling to meet a deadline, I noticed something interesting about myself: the perfectionism that sometimes paralyzes me as a writer is the same perfectionism that makes me an excellent researcher. It is, it seems, a double-edged sword, and one that I have probably carried since I was a teenager.
Sometimes, when I skipped school, I would take the subway to the Metro Toronto Reference Library and spend hours there looking things up. One day, it would be the etymology of words I liked the sound of; the next, it was newspaper coverage of an historical event I was curious to know more about. Once, I rifled through ten years worth of different magazines just to see what advertisements looked like in the 1950s. Then, as now, I considered this fun, although then I was more likely to be high.
Slowly, I am drifting toward history as the thing that I do, and it seems a fitting destination point for a life-long perfectionist. I am convinced that we are driven by our obsessions and neuroses as much as by our talents (if not slightly more so), and I am coming to think that the key is not to rid ourselves of them, but to seek out endeavours that are benefitted by them. Since they’re not going anywhere, we might as well put them to good use.
I just looked up the word “aptitude,” which is defined by the Webster’s 1828 dictionary as “a natural or acquired disposition for a particular purpose,” but also as a “tendency to a particular action or effect.” I like the ring of the latter definition, which makes no distinction between positive and negative tendencies but simply notes their mechanics. Of course, I also got a kick out of looking it up.