Monday, September 17, 2018

Is Being A Perfectionist Holding You Back?


Writers are well known for being perfectionists, and why not? Writing a novel to be proud of takes considerable time and effort, and wanting to get it absolutely right before you send it to publishers or share it with the world makes good sense.
However, there is a downside to perfectionism if taken to the extreme. While it’s great to be contentious and thorough in your work if you won’t let it go until it’s 100% perfect you are going to come up with a rather significant problem.
No piece of writing is perfect.
That’s the truth of the matter. Even the most well-received novels and celebrated writers don’t write perfect stories, and they certainly don’t start out anything near that way. If you keep holding onto the idea that you can make your story perfect, you’ll never finish it.
How to recognize perfectionist behaviour and what to do about it:
If you are too self-critical, if you never share your work, if you edit your work so much that you aren’t even sure if you are making it any better, you may well be a perfectionist. Here are some tips to help you get past this.
Get your first draft written
Tell yourself that you can perfect your writing later, and then focus all your energy on getting that first draft down. If you can put aside your aspirations of perfection until your first draft is finished, at least you’ve got the groundwork done without letting your perfectionism get in the way.
Be realistic
Expect rejection, expect to feel uncertain, expect to look back at something you’ve written and feel shocked at how bad it is! This is all completely normal. The reality is that most writers will experience rejection and criticism and that’s OK. If you can be realistic about this and not let the fear of it happening to you block you from getting your work out there, you will at least be able to say you gave it everything.
Be willing to learn
There are always lessons to be learned when it comes to writing. From tips on how to improve your prose to information about the writing industry, be open to learning as much as you can. Perfectionists often struggle with feedback and advice so trying to open up to learning, experimenting and absorbing input from others can be so helpful.
Keep practicing
The more you write, the better you get, but also the more you write, the more you will become used to the imperfections in your writing. Keep producing material, keep tweaking it, keep adjusting and reworking and editing, and learn and grow as a writer, and editor as you do.
Learn when to stop
Accepting that a perfect piece of writing doesn’t exist is the first step. It’s hugely important to work on our manuscripts until we have created the world, the characters and the plot that we feel does our story justice.
It’s essential to redraft and edit too. These processes take time and effort and can be very challenging.
However, this hard work is not to be confused with perfectionism. Learning when to stop, when you have done enough and when you can be proud and satisfied with what you’ve achieved it so important.
As JK Rowling once said, “Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way.”
Embrace failure, accept your flaws and let go of perfectionism and you’ll be a more productive and happier writer for it!

I began looking over my memoir to send to the Blydyn Square publishing contest. I need to get it in by the 30th and have opted to email it. As much as still love to send things by postal mail, I just had to make an exception here to save postage costs and to use less ink and paper. Ink gets expensive, too! Also, I waited a bit long and now have less than two weeks, but am determined to get it in on time.
I had not been too certain about entering this, but  my fellow clients and my boss have encouraged it. So yesterday I began looking for errors in spelling and grammar and such, but still find myself trying to delete and add stuff or make sentences shorter. It seem hard to get out a habit like this. I tried to tell myself  to avoid this and just look for spelling and grammar but I still got in the habit of trying to make the story seem perfect. All I want to do is make it sound right to me and enjoy what I have written. I know that sounds like a bit of perfectionism., or does it? When I lasted looked it over, I felt what I had written was what I wanted to send out, but I knew they're would be some errors and I needed to look for those. But it was still hard not get into editing mode. And I did find some sentences I wanted to delete, so I did. BTW, I'm not all the way through it all yet, but am determined to get it done in time. 
Does this sound like any of you writers out there? How do you deal with this sort of thing?


Elephant's Child said...

I struggle with perfectionalism. And am slowly learning to let it go.
Nothing is perfect. And I am no exception.

Sandra Cox said...

I ALWAYS find things to correct.
Wishing you much success with your entry:)

Kelly Hashway said...

I think most writers struggle with this. I know I do.

Sandra Cox said...

Like anything else, learning is an ongoing process in writing.