Perfect Isn’t the Name of the Game

Posted September 19, 2015 by the lovely Aneeqah in Drafting / 2 Comments


perfectionism in writing

Perfectionism can be kind of a paralyzing thing.

We writers are so passionate about our words, our craft, our plots, and especially our characters. It can be so easy to whip up new ideas when you’re in that creative state of mind, when the ideas are flowing, and you’re brainstorming new subplots and characters left and right.

The real problem, however, comes when it’s time to translate those thoughts into actual words. Suddenly the world we created in our minds starts to go askew, and things don’t come out right. Nothing goes right, in fact.

That’s the difficulty in writing: being able to articulate those beautiful, precious ideas we have stored up in our minds, and putting them into tangible words.

This is where perfectionism truly starts to become an issue. Because so many of us writers have it all ‘right’ in our heads, it seems impossible to produce anything but that perfect vision of the story we have. Whenever I’m writing- fiction or otherwise- I want it to go down on the paper exactly as I pictured things. The characters need to have personality, the plot needs to be substaintive, and the world-building needs to be impeccable. Otherwise, no one will read our work, right?

Here’s the thing though: nobody will read your first draft. Except for you, and maybe someone who’s looking at your work for you. It’s so, so important to internalize that concept though. It’s easy for us to listen to other people say “rough drafts aren’t perfect! Keep going!” and nod our heads, but we all think it’s going to be different with our stories. Our story is perfect, unlike everybody else’s.

And each story most definitely is unique, and special. There’s no doubt about that. But writers have experienced the same issues, and will continue to do so for however long writing is going to be around (which, spoiler alert, is going to be forever). There is a similarity in the struggle that you have to embrace, that you have to accept, so that you can move on and make your story absolutely amazing.


How to Get Rid of Perfectionism While Writing: A List

  1. Start writing.
  2. Keep writing.

It’s that easy. And that difficult.

The problem with perfectionism is that it makes you second-guess every single word that you type. My writing process, when I’m struggling with perfectionism, will often go something like this:

  • Type a word.
  • Stare at word for a few moments.
  • Decide it’s not right.
  • Delete word.
  • Repeat process for x amount of times.

Do you see the problem with a process like this? It’s far too time consuming. The whole point of writing is to tell a story. Sure, words are the building blocks of that story, but the very essence of the story is the characters. The plot. The emotion. Those are the building blocks you need. From there, everything else can be fixed, added, and enhanced. But without that base, nothing will happen. You won’t be able to get into any of the future stages, or start writing that sequel, or attend the premiere of your novel-turned-movie until you get the first draft down, no matter what shape it’s in. You have to be okay with putting words down, even if they’re mediocre, to get the flow of the story. After that, improvements can be made. But not before a first draft is written.

It’s scary, but creating something amazing always is.


Why Writing is Never Perfect Anyways

Think back to the last time you read a book and thought it was absolute perfection. 

Some of you may not have any book that you think is absolutely flawless (being a book reviewer or a voracious reader can do that to you), but even if you do, not everyone thinks the same way as you. Writing can be incredibly subjective, since it’s so personal and based on emotions and building connections with characters.

That’s precisely why you will never see ‘perfect’ as a core word when talking about writing or books. We talk about writing in terms of how raw it is, how it makes us feel, using words like “emotional”, “vivid”, “captivating”- but not perfect. It’s inherently impossible for a book to be perfect, because there is not a set definition of what a book or any sort of writing should be like. That’s the beauty of writing: it can be anything and everything- but perfect.

Let that idea free you. Get the draft on paper. Let the words flow. If you’re worried about not being good enough, write anyways. The only way you can get better is by writing.

Perfect isn’t the name of the game, not in writing.

Pen on paper. Fingers on keyboard.

Do you struggle with perfectionism, with writing or otherwise? Do you find it hard to start something because you want it to be ‘just right’? Any other tips on overcoming the desire to have everything be perfect? Let me know!

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2 Responses to “Perfect Isn’t the Name of the Game”

  1. I definitely used to struggle with perfectionism, although in a different way! Yes, I’d take an abominably long time to finish my first draft, but I also thought that my first draft was perfect after labouring over it for a while. (OR, I’d spend a lot of time editing for style and grammar and so on, and nothing for plot and character.) Now I just dash off all my thoughts into a first draft with the goal of getting to the second draft.

    Thanks for commenting on The Devil Orders Takeout, Aneeqah!

  2. Yes! I always struggle with trying to make that first draft perfect — even though I know it won’t be — even though I teach community ed classes in writing where I advise my students to turn off that internal editor and JUST WRITE — following my own advice is hard!

    That is probably why I do my best first draft writing late at night. The Perfectionist knocks off work early, so around 10 pm to 1 pm is the time I am most likely not to care if it’s perfect as long as words are still coming. In the morning, it’s sometimes scary to open up the document and see what I wrote last night. The Perfectionist won’t like it all but will be very eager to start fixing it!

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