Is Being A Perfectionist Holding You Back?

By on September 14, 2018
Is Being A Perfectionist Holding You Back? - Writer's

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!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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