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Writing as a Perfectionist

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Anonymous asked: “I want to improve at writing but I’m such a perfectionist. Any ideas for how to get past that?" 

 There isn’t a simple way to just "get over it” with perfectionism. Writing sometimes is going to mean writing badly. There are some things that help though. 

 First, keep a notebook. This sounds overly simple but the truth is, this is probably the only reason I was able to get past that “perfectionist” stage in my writing- I think everyone goes through it eventually. In some people, it manifests as spending way too much time editing. Eventually I had to learn “different is not always better. Different is just different.” And also, I’ve learned too that editing can sometimes lead down a rabbit hole where you’re so concerned about getting things right that you end up losing the things that made you excited to write this story in the first place. This I think hurts the reader more than the writer. 

 Anyway, back to getting a notebook. If you can’t type the perfect story onto a computer, you might be able to put a lot of it together both in your head and on a notebook. I don’t mean that you have to plan it all out. Maybe try writing different openings. Start with shorter pieces before taking on a novel. Think of lines you love and write them down in this notebook. This is a place to organize (and remember) your thoughts. 

Eventually you will have to sit down and write, but if you’d allowed yourself to write even just a rough and imperfect draft on paper first, it’s more likely to turn out cleaner the next time around. This is a good way to help break out of this habit. 

Another thing that helps in my experience is NaNoWriMo. If you’re a perfectionist, there’s a chance too that you’re also very competitive. I’m like that at least. NaNoWriMo was exactly what I needed. I was so determined to make word count every day that I couldn’t have every word be perfect too. I skimped on perfection and wrote 50,000 words instead. The perfectionist in me needed to stay on track, so something had to go. 

After doing NaNoWriMo a couple times, I ended up becoming a lot more comfortable with my own writing and learned how to write well quickly. My writing ended up improving a lot. I came to the conclusion, my writing will never be “perfect” but it will be my own. With that said, the authors I look at and call perfect are incredibly different from each other – they have their own distinct voices. The more I’ve written, the more I’ve realized that I have my own voice too and there is no perfect to be striving for. 

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