This year, I published my first full-length novel called Oblivion Black. Members of the Writers’ Mastermind witnessed me slaving over this manuscript in our weekly co-writing sessions since our virtual writing group began two years ago. They also know that I have been “working on” this story since 2012.
Yes. TEN years.
It seems like an impossible amount of time to be sitting on a book. And yet, here I am in 2022 just releasing it. It staggers the mind (and also makes me feel old to have been an adult long enough to say that I spent a decade with the same damn novel).
I say “sitting” on a book, because most of time I spent changing things, and changing them back, overthinking and overworking everything instead of moving forward in the process of actually publishing a book. It was ten years wasted second guessing, self-doubt, and perfectionism.
So sadly as you can see, I am more than qualified to speak about today’s topic.
FROM THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron
Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead.
It is a loop—an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole.
The Flip Side
On the other side of perfectionism is sloppiness, carelessness, and recklessness. Equally harmful, this is when we don’t take the time and energy to learn what we need to do and how to do it. The artistic wave is so exhilarating, we don’t think about whether or not our boat has any holes in it, and we sink before we reach the shore.
This comes in the form of impatience, self-importance, idealism, and ignorance. But some of this energy is needed to produce compelling work. We must find a balance. We can’t be be blindly confident or overly cautious.
So how do we strike this balance?
As a writer who struggled with crippling perfectionism, here are a few signs you have a problem.
7 Signs Perfectionism is Ruining Your Writing
1. You revisit the same material more than a reasonable amount of times.
2. The things you’ve changed, you change back to their original state, sometimes more than once (second-guessing).
3. You ask for feedback over and over again and shape your story to everyone else’s opinions
4. You don’t believe anyone when they say it’s good or great.
5. The story has lost its original urgency and rawness because of overediting.
6. It has taken you more than a few years to finish (I’ll give you one to three years for a novel, excluding those who have a demanding job or personal live. NOT 10 YEARS, unless you’re Proust!).
7. Your WIP has become such a burden, you struggle to breathe (either metaphorically or literally).
Be mindful and watch yourself for the neuroses of perfectionism.
At some point, have faith, be decisive, and move on.
Do you struggle with perfectionism in your writing?
Or have you rushed into things and released them before they were ready?
Please reply/comment below.
And, may the muses be with you,
- Crystalize your vision of what it means a successful author
- Develop your own Writer Manifesto
- Reverse engineer a step-by-step plan to your career as a writer
- Avoid wasting time, overwhelm, and paralysis