Perfectionism and Writing

I have a problem.  I can’t focus if my papers are creased or torn or uneven.  God help me if something spills on any of my papers.  Not just things for writing either: school papers, money, receipts, everything.  If I absolutely have to cease something, you can bet that the creases are even.  It’s just a quirk of mine.

But it’s when that kind of OCD/perfectionism behavior appears in writing there’s a problem.  I have a difficult time progressing in my work if I know what I’ve written isn’t just so.  I want to desperately be able to just pound out a draft, but I find myself going back to reread, then fix a word (innocent enough!), and maybe another… then oh my… that comma isn’t really needed is?  Is that making the line unclear?  And the thoughts spiral out of control.  Those five minutes of rereading to jog my memory turns into half an hour of minor editing.  Of course the mistakes I fix aren’t the typos I make though; even rereading my work I don’t see them.

I wonder where the balance of perfectionism and acceptance lies in writing?  I’m sure it’s easier for some to find than others, but I have a hard time seeing the line.  What are your thoughts?  Is there a hard and fast line between the two, or does it blur?  I’m convinced that it likes to wiggle around just to confuse me.  😉


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. poetofmidnight
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 10:05:38

    It helps to have another trustworthy person read your work. When writing something, and then rereading immediately after, you see what you think you wrote not actually what’s written. So, take a day of two and go back to your work. Also, perfect writing doesn’t exist, so I suppose accepting that would be the first step toward finding that balance between perfectionism and acceptance as well as curing your OCD. Your writing is unique, it’s your own. Love your uniqueness! It’s more fulfilling than being perfect (=. Also, the biggest critic of writing, is the writer themselves so keep that in mind too if you think you’re getting too picky. I hope I was helpful!!!


  2. wolfraven80
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 10:41:52

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going back and editing a bit– I mean I can’t imagine reading an earlier section and *leaving* the mistakes in when I spot them. *twitches* When I come to first drafts I write slower than some people – 500 words an hour is a pretty normal average for me – but I like to think about what words to put down. The idea of doing it Nano-style, where you just throw crap down on the page, makes me sort of queasy unless I’m actually doing Nano. Sure my drafts aren’t perfect, but at least I don’t feel like they’re total crap, you know? So I think it’s okay to make small corrections and go and to think as you write if that’s what works.

    For me the perfectionism tends to trip me up later in the editing process. It was awful when I was trying to format my first manuscript. I delayed sending the thing out for months as I obsessed over minute stylistic details and about how to package it properly. :/


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