This is my monster: Perfectionism. It keeps me from trying, it keeps me stuck in the planning phase, and whispers in my ear as I stare at the blank screen of a new document. I’m afraid to write anything in case it is subpar.
But that’s silly, isn’t it? When you put it in words, it doesn’t make any sense. Here are some things I tell myself to chase away perfectionism, and if you have the same problem, you can tell yourself too.
What I write isn’t set in stone.
Even more so now than when writers used to work their craft with pen and paper or typewriter, the written word can be changed. You can delete a word or replace it as if it never was. No one needs even know you wrote in the passive voice or used a word too often or even (gasp!) misspelled a word. That’s what editing is for.
Others can help me.
There are going to be plenty of times you miss errors, so getting another pair of eyes can help. It can be scary, though, to let someone else see your raw work. But if you think about it, when we think we can do this whole writing/editing thing alone, we are really saying we know everything there is to know. Sounds kind of arrogant if you put it that way. I’m learning to let a few people I trust see my mistakes rather than failing miserably at the publishing stage, or worse, not putting my work out there at all.
Making mistakes helps me learn.
If you do make a writing mistake and someone else catches it, then there’s no need to beat yourself up. This is an opportunity to hone your writing craft, improve your work, and better yourself. I’m retraining myself to be thankful for my mistakes and the ability to learn from them.
Writing imperfectly is better than not writing at all.
I don’t know about you, but I have to write. It’s like a compulsion. If I don’t write, things get all backed up in my mind. It’s not pretty. So waiting until I feel I can write something perfectly is not a healthy option for me. And writing every day, whether I feel it’s to my impossible standard or not, gives me the added advantage of strengthening my writing muscles.
My own idea of “perfect” is skewed.
Where do I get this standard from, anyway? Do I really feel like everyone needs to like my books? I don’t like every book out there, not even critically acclaimed ones. So why do I feel like I need to please everyone? I’m learning to form a more objective opinion of what good writing looks like, and let go of the things I add on my own.
I hope this helps any of you who might be struggling with perfectionism in your writing, or anything else in life. Let’s get rid of this crippling influence and make some beautiful things. 🙂