Ideas for Taming the Perfectionist

If you find yourself stuck in your writing by searching for the perfect idea, phrase, descriptive language, action sequence or grammatically correct prose, you may be a perfectionist. Producing high quality text that engages and enthralls the reader should be the goal of every writer. Perfectionists must learn to manage the balance between getting a work to market and making it perfect.

To a true perfectionist, releasing a book before it is perfect may seem to require compromises that will reflect poorly on its quality. That is where the balancing act comes in to play. Ultimately, it makes no sense to attempt to produce a perfect work if nobody is going to read it. Let the reader become the judge of what is perfect after they read your book.

The first important point is to stop procrastinating, idly tapping your computer mouse as you wait for perfection to arrive. Write down whatever you first thought of writing and just keep writing. Ignore the grammar, style and word choices as you write and save that work for later editing. Flow the creativity through your pen or fingertips, into your writing, and don’t keep it solely in your head. Learning to be a good writer takes practice, as with any other discipline. Attempting to be perfect without practice is simply dreaming.

When you finally start the editing phase, be prepared to rewrite several sections of the work and plan on multiple rounds of editing. Don’t let this frustrate you. Instead, take time away from the book and you’ll find each time you return to it you will have a fresh perspective and the work will improve greatly. Have other people look over excerpts of the work to give you feedback. You may find that their view of perfection and yours don’t match, and that’s a good thing. Either they will give you constructive suggestions to improve it, or they will tell you it is great in spite of your tendency to want to keep on polishing.

The other balance that perfectionists must learn to maintain is the balance between work and life. Don’t become a hermit in your pursuit of your perfect dream. Take time to engage fully with your family, friends and nature. That time and the experiences you will gain from it will recharge your batteries and provide the fuel to help you write when you return to your writing desk. Family memories come and go only once. You can choose to miss them completely and never have those memories, or you can choose to have a rich memory bank of relationships that were dear to you.

If you are relatively new to writing, don’t be too hard on yourself. Writing is a wonderful creative outlet and you can’t be too creative if you’re not having fun. Enjoy the process and maintain a positive outlook and you will find the creativity will be there. You have great ideas and stories to tell. Get them out of you so others can enjoy them. It all comes down to balance: the balance between work, play and perfectionism. Focus on balancing the first two and the third will take care of itself. Whatever you do, write on!