Yep. I am. And a perfectionist in general. And it’s a real pain in the butt when it comes to reaching my goals.
Signs You May Be a Perfectionist Writer
Do any of these traits sound like you? Note how many do, just for kicks.
- You set unrealistic expectations for yourself, such as completing a novel in three days (though I’m sure there are some who have or can do this) and then beat yourself up if you don’t meet those expectations.
- You feel like a failure when you make a mistake or at the very least, are very uncomfortable with making mistakes or even the idea of making a mistake.
- You have trouble deciding where to take your story next, so you either don’t do anything or keep doing what you’ve already been doing even though you sense it isn’t quite right. (This is tied to the above)
- You have an all or nothing attitude toward submitting or other aspects of your writing or career. If one publisher passed on your story, they all will so why bother? And that’ll happen with all the other ones too so maybe you should just stop writing altogether! Or you couldn’t get the opening to your novel the way you want it so maybe you shouldn’t write it at all.
- You have a lot of things you believe you should do, rather than things you “get to” do. You should finish that picture book. You should do more social media to market yourself and your books. You should eat that second bowl of ice cream 🙂 .See my post, Glorious Gratitude, on the dreaded “should.”
- You tie your self-worth to how much you’ve accomplished rather than knowing you are enough right here, right now.
- You second-guess your decisions or actions, whether it be a word choice, a revision, or whether you should have mentioned your Ph.D. in Astrophysics in the query you sent. 🙂
If you agreed with three or more of these statements, I’d say you can join my Perfectionist Writers Club. We serve extra helpings of chocolate and French fries at our club meetings because all this perfectionism is stressful!
The Perfectionist Writers Curse
I’m discovering how debilitating this perfectionism thing can be. Even if you don’t have all of the above traits, having some of them may be hindering you from being your best writer self.
When I’ve looked at my own patterns, here’s what perfectionism does for me:
- Consumes valuable time I could be using for something else…like REAL writing or revising (as opposed to tweaking and fiddling ad nauseam)
- Doesn’t substantially improve the project… It’s true that sometimes fiddling does improve it in a way that is significant and I’m glad I did it, but that often comes after hours of tweaking that was really nothing more than…tweaking.
- Doesn’t alleviate my fears or whatever is underneath my desire to have it perfect. I still wonder if it could be better or if I missed something.
The Perfectionist Cure
I don’t have a permanent cure yet—if you do, please share it!—but just recognizing these traits has had a huge impact on me. I’m much more aware of how I approach different aspects of my writing and am starting to release a bit. Most of this is because I really, really want to move forward—to see what can happen with a project, to start on the next project…and more.
Life’s too short for piddling and perfecting. Let’s move forward with less caution and more abandon. (Wait. Should I reword that? 😉 )