Recently my husband suggested I should start sending my writing off for people to read. He came up with a few names, but I found myself ultimately tensing up and disagreeing with those names he had suggested.
He then raised a very valid point – if I don’t want anyone to read my writing, then I don’t want to get published; I’ll only be writing for myself. As an unpublished writer, at the moment I am only writing for myself. I’m finding out where my strengths and weaknesses are and I want to build up a body of work so that when I do publish, I’ll have more than one book on offer. Sounds reasonable, however, the problem with that is that it could take years, so why wait that long?
During our conversation, a voice in the back of my head screamed ‘I’m not ready!’ Fear took hold of me once again. Why? I then realised that my fear stemmed from perfectionism. I can’t let anyone read my work – it needs to be perfect before I can do that!
The trouble is there is no such thing as perfect. It’s an illusion. We admire other writers – their writing can look so damned perfect, yet we only ever see the finished product. Years of hard work and persistence enabled these writers to reach such a high standard and yet they learned to let go. They knew when their best was good enough. Like any art, not everyone is going to like everything you write. In order to do the best we can at our craft, we need to make mistakes. If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not learning. Participating in National Novel Writing Month is the ultimate way in which writers can lose all pretence of perfectionism, and author Anne R Allen lists several ways in which NaNoWriMo can help.
Change your way of thinking. Instead of aiming for perfection, think about making progress instead. Learning to progress increases your knowledge, which can make you an expert in certain areas. It broadens the mind; makes you a more interesting person and can become a great motivator. It will also help you decide that, you too, have done the best you can do and can move on.
Aiming for perfection can be crippling as it helps feed those self-doubts. Perfection doesn’t help you to move forward as a writer, instead strive for progress and you’ll never look back.
Do you struggle with perfectionism? Does perfectionism hold you back from achieving your goals? Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year?