Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Perils of Perfectionism

I’ve spoken at length about personal difficulties I face as a writer. 

I’ve written about rejection, not feeling like a writer, and a backhanded way to spot trolls in the beta process, but today I want to talk about… 

Perfectionism sucks.

Perfectionism can lead to fear, and fear can lead to not putting yourself out there as a writer. Here are a few thoughts on the pluses and minuses of perfectionism and my writing life.

+ Perfectionism Makes Me Thorough

While I won't claim to catch all my mistakes, my perfectionistic tendencies ensures that I will correct any mistake I come across. All throughout my schooling years, people have called me “thorough” in regards to the assignments I turn in and the notes I take. I find this to be a positive, because I can trust myself to have all of the information I need to get a job done.

This applies to my writing life as well. I am constantly looking for ways to improve my MS in all sorts of ways—-not just in the line edits. 

- Perfectionism Makes Me Thorough

On the flip side of this, my thoroughness makes me slow. Not slow enough to be chronically late 9 times out of 10, but slower than many doing the same thing. All in the name of perfection. 

I realize perfection is ultimately unattainable, but I still strive for it in what I do. Lately, I’ve been trying to ease back from this since my slowness is getting in the way of me publishing a book.

As an example, if you give me 60 minutes to take a test, I will use 50 minutes of it to make sure I turn in the best test I can. I am the same with writing. And while it may have helped to get me the grade I wanted in school, being a perfectionist as a writer slows my career from moving forward.

+ Perfectionism Makes Me Think Before I Act

Perfectionism makes me think before I act. I weigh my options for workshops, work out hypothetical budgets before I begin thinking about publishing options, and have binders and notebooks full of research both inside and outside of my novel. This is a plus because I usually don't act impulsively before I throw myself into a project, and in this regard, I am able to alleviate unnecessary costs and losses.

- Perfectionism Makes Me Think Before I Act

Oh yes, I think before I act…too much thinking, if you ask me. Perfectionism is a wild mistress—it gives me insight to watch my step so I do not fall on my face, but it comes at a price. 

And that price is hesitation and cautiousness akin to a skittish deer in imaginary headlights. This hesitation has me second-guess my abilities, telling me to step away from the ledge of possibility instead of learning to fly. 

+ Perfectionism Affects the End Product

Because I am so thorough, I tend to comb through my MS so often that I lose count. I check over character arcs, motivations, plot dynamics etc. You name it, I check it. I believe this affects the end product.

My perfectionism is by no means all-consuming, though. Even in this post, there are bound to be mistakes. But, I’d like to imagine how many more mistakes there would be if I didn’t bother to check over my work.

- Perfectionism Affects the End Product

Taking a darker turn, perfectionism affects my end product in two ways: fear of failure and fear of judgement.

Now these two unsightly side-effects also stem from the anxieties I have as a writer (maybe more on that later), but I think it is also due to my perfectionism.

I am afraid of failure because my perfectionism and sense of self are intrinsically linked with one another. If my work fails, I have trouble reminding myself that I am not also branded a failure as a human being. 

The same goes for my fear of judgement, which is why, for many years, I didn’t show my work to anyone. Because writing is such a personal endeavor for me, I remained secretive of my creative output. I equated judgement with conflict, and if there's one thing I shy away from like no tomorrow, it's conflict. Perfectionism hinders me because I think, "If I can't do it perfectly, why should I do it at all?" (Hint: don't do this.)

I still struggle with these things, but in writing this, I can confront my shortcomings, and hopefully, tell others that they are not alone in this.

Do you struggle with perfectionism in your writing? Tell me in the comments below!

May your words be great and your pages many~

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