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Why The “Ideal” Will Keep You Unfulfilled And Empty Everytime

by Peter on February 4, 2013

[pullquote align=”left”]“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

E. B. White via Brain Pickings


I want to tell you a simple story as an illustration but I’ve only been staring at this computer screen longer than I want to confess. The story is of no real consequence and easily told within my circle of friends. The story isn’t embarrassing.  The problem is the writing.  In my mind I’m a lyrical savant writing a portion of my life manifesto where readers have no choice but to hang onto every character I’ve typed.  The post must be perfect. I can’t let “my readers” down.  The truth is I can’t let my secret sense of grandur down.  And this is what I want to write about.

Let’s start with the story.

[note color=”#f7e8eb”]

I was working on a college research paper that needed to be done by friday night early Saturday morning so that I could have a weekend to just hang out. The paper was long over due and I was tired of putting it off. Well, it didn’t get finished  early Saturday morning. It got finished early Monday morning. The reason? A pen. That’s right a pen. Nope, I wasn’t writing a college research paper on paper. I was using a Windows 3.1 PC.

Here’s what happened.

30 minutes before the library closed I realized that I needed a few more quick resources from the reference department of my college library. They would make my paper perfect. It was about a 4 minute walk to the library so this was going to an easy in and out job. After gathering my notebooks I headed on over. I arrived. 26 minutes to go. Students were everywhere and the copier line was too long. (The librarians were serious about closing time. It didn’t matter if you were in line. Once the bell rang the copiers were shut down.) I got the notebook out to write. It shouldn’t take anymore than 15 minutes.  I realized I didn’t have my pen. 19 minutes to go.

I could have asked someone for a pen. There were plenty of people just chatting it up because closing time was just around the corner. I thought about it for a few minutes but decided not to ask anyone. Why? Because I didn’t want to use a gimpy pen.  You see I really liked the pen that I left back at the dorm. It was the only one at the time that worked well with my handwriting.

14 minutes to go. I ran back to my room and found my pen. 10 minutes to go. I ran back to my open reference books in the library. 6 minutes to go. I started writing quickly. Librarians in a hurry to leave for the weekend started to pester me.  Suffice it to say it was a waste to try and get anything written that mattered.

So the paper didn’t get finished because I didn’t have a specific pen? Yes.


Let me answer 2 of your questions:

  1. No, there was nothing special about that pen other than I liked writing with it.
  2. No, there wasn’t anything special about what I was writing that had to be written by that pen. 
[heading style=”2″]Excuse of the Metaphorical Pen[/heading]

My ideal was a specific pen. If I couldn’t use it then the words that I could have written with any pen wasn’t worth the effort. Think about what I just wrote.  I reasoned that only a specific pen would help me write what no other pen could help me write. What would have happened if I borrowed a pen?  I would have written what needed to be written and then finished the paper the following day.

Instead, I waited for the ideal. I waited for something specific that didn’t have any affect on the result. It wouldn’t have made the paper on which it wrote any better. It didn’t make the words anymore meaningful. It wouldn’t have made my thesis and arguments anymore sound. That pen wouldn’t have changed anything by using it. 

I demanded the ideal of myself. If I couldn’t have it then my paper was going to have to wait. My paper needed to be perfect and the only way that was going to happen was if the ideal pen was used to write a few references.

Silly isn’t it. But how many of use do this all the time. We have a passion brewing in our heart that needs to be poured out for the world to see.  But we don’t do anything. The reason? We wait for the ideal. We tell ourselves that we aren’t going to settle for anything else other than the ideal.  The ideal:

  • computer
  • car
  • time to change carriers
  • time to start a new parttime business
  • brand of journal and pen to write your thoughts down
  • house and neighborhood
  • clothing because it represents…
  • education
  • day of the week
  • too many people
  • not enough people
  • income
  • time to have children
  • time to get married
  • opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet
  • price of peanut butter hasn’t been reached



Stop waiting for your metaphorical pen.  You’re going to wait and wait and every December 31 will be the end of another year that you didn’t act. Stop waiting for the ideal to give you permission. Stop waiting. When you don’t do what you love or your passion you’re going to feel unfulfilled. When you don’t fill fulfilled you won’t feel motivated to move forward. You’ll make up more excuses as to why you haven’t even started.  And even if you have started you probably didn’t go for very long.

Maybe things didn’t work out as you planned. Or maybe you didn’t have a plan so when things didn’t go your way you didn’t know what to do. You’ll eventually feel empty inside because your passion wasn’t being filled up with your success.  Stop waiting for the ideal to come and rescue you.


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