Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beating Perfectionism

I hate to admit it, but I'm a perfectionist. It might come from my job, where everything has to be accurate and organised, or maybe I was just born this way. Sometimes the perfectionist tendency can be a good thing eg when proof-reading printed information leaflets on medicines produced at my work.

Other times, like when I'm trying to write, it can grind me to a halt. Why? Because the image in my brain in no way matches what comes out on the screen. And if I give in to my perfectionism, I want to make it one hundred percent before I move on.

So, I'm waging a war against perfectionism in my writing. This includes
  1. keeping my 2010 goals visible as I write
  2. using my Alphasmart (small screen mini word processor, impossible to edit)
  3. writing to a timer, and not re-reading at all until the chapter is finished
  4. scheduling one week for new content, the next week for editing, and repeating this cycle between face to face critique group meetings
  5. working on a fun writing project, not related to my current WIP
  6. actively looking for ideas and keeping my ideas folder handy
And is it working?

So far, so good. Instead of scratching for content for my face to face group each fortnight, I've got chapters in the bank. I've ticked off goals on my to-do list without any all-nighters, just by sticking to my timetable. I've finally realised (its only been four years...) you can't edit to publishable standard unless you've got words on the page. The light has finally come on.

So, if you struggle as I do and you start procrastinating instead of writing, do what I did. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Try a book in a month, book in a week, or daily sprint. Write messy, write without thinking. Switch off the internal editor and just write. You'll be surprised what you can achieve when you learn to let go of Mr/Ms Perfectionism.


Alison said...

Great post Fi. Some very helpful hints there. I think I'll have to give them a go.

Eleni Konstantine said...

Fi - for me it's not perfectionism that gets me - but rather the regular consistent output. And breaking down goals into attainable tasks.

Great tips there - I do like the swapping over on projects on a weekly basis and working on another fun writing project.

So go words!!

Fiona G said...

Alison, hope those hints work for you. Anything that lets you get words on paper is a good technique as far as I'm concerned.

Eleni, my motto at the moment is "Just Do It" and I try to stick with that. Not worry about it being perfect, just get it done. So far, so good.


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