Hello, my fellow writers.
It’s a rainy day here in Georgia. Usually a good time for writing. And being that it’s the first Wednesday of the month, it’s time for my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. I have to say that for this month, I had a hard time deciding on what to talk about. I thought about answering the optional question, but I had this feeling I needed to talk about something else. Something that has been nagging me for some time. Then, as I was helping my wife with a blog post, it hit me. I knew what I need to talk about: perfection.
This topic coincides with everything I’m struggling with in my writing. Last month, I shared my goal to write a short story a month; from inception to outlining, first draft to final. I fell behind from the get-go and I struggled to get my footing back. I found myself not wanting to write said story. I put it on the shelf by the third week.
Now, I can give numerous reasons for not completing this goal. The bottom line: I went for something that is unattainable. Perfection. I wanted to write the perfect draft. I didn’t want to put in the work to revise and edit. I didn’t want to admit that I wrote something that was not up to my standards. In the end, however, I wrote nothing.
It’s no secret that I struggle with perfectionism. If you’re a writer, this is typical. If you don’t, then you’re a better writer than I am or you’re lying. (I’m betting the latter.) To quote a famous writer, “perfectionism is the killer of creativity.” That’s exactly what I am doing. I’m killing my creativity with this “need” to pursue the unattainable. Perfectionism is like a vacuum, sucking up everything that you want to write. It fills you up with falsehoods and doubts. It is natural to have doubts about what you write, but perfectionism takes it to the extreme. It paralyzes you. Cripples you. Makes you not want to write for days, weeks, or months at a time.
I suffered with the perfectionism parasite for four weeks, not wanting to write anything and questioning my abilities as a writer. So in typical fashion, I broadcasted my woes to social media. Messaged a couple of writing friends privately. The responses were overwhelming, brimming with encouragement. I received suggestions on story ideas. Got pep talks from fellow writers. The usual stuff. But a part of me still clings to the perfectionist inside me and I replay the self-inflicting negative talks. But this time, I am deciding that this will be different.
I want to cling to the affirmations. I don’t want to let the clout of perfectionism hang over me. To do that, I
need am changing my mindset. I’m quitting worrying about being perfect because it will never happen. I’m resolving to be the best writer I can be, not perfect.
To implement this newfound resolution, I am augmenting my writing goal. Instead of writing twelve stories in twelve months, I will write four stories in twelve months. This is easier for me. I can write the stories I want without the perfectionist critic breathing down my neck. And even when it comes down to the editing phase, I can feel free to augment and mold the story to its best figure. I still want to submit stories to contests and such, but I think changing this goal will help ease the pressure.
Speaking of which, I read an article from The Write Practice on combatting perfectionism. The biggest solution the article offers: give yourself permission to write crap and just write. So that’s what I did. I wrote a story I didn’t edit or revise, and I posted it on my blog. I received encouraging comments on my story. I’m going to use it as motivation to write my next story.
Click here to read The Write Practice article on killing perfectionism and exercise.
Click here to read my imperfect story. Feel free to comment, too.
Perfectionism is a parasite that infects every writer. I struggle with it. But I made the resolution to be imperfect. In a sense, I’m giving myself permission to write stories the way I want, regardless of quality at the beginning because I can shape it into something beautiful. It is possible I might not complete the goals I set out to do, but I feel comfortable knowing I will give it my best shot and not let anything hold me back.
How about you? How has perfectionism held you back? What are some ways you combat it? Let me know in the comments.
I would like to thank the IWSG Administration team for this opportunity to share my writing journey with fellow writers in the hopes I can encourage others to push through and find encouragement. If you want to know more about the group, click on the link.
Until next time…