Perfectionism is Killing Your Writing Career


Perfectionism has no place in your life as a writer. As we discussed earlier this week everyone writes crappy first drafts. If you are a perfectionist, then you will never allow yourself to write that crappy first draft, which means that you won't write anything, ever. Perfectionism has repercussions that go well beyond your writing as well, but that is a whole different discussion for a whole different time. Let’s just focus on how your attempt to be perfect is ruining your writing life. I hear the following statement from just about every author I work with, “I just want to spend a little more time perfecting it [my manuscript].” This is a well-warranted statement. After all, you, and your publisher, want your book to be the best that it can be. The problem with this statement is that sometimes your book is already there, but as its creator you are more honed on its flaws than its strengths.

Let me tell you a little secret: all books are flawed. Even the greats. All books have little spelling errors, or missing plot points, or arguments that could use tweaking in their first printing. These flaws do not mean that your book is no good, or that it won't have the desired effect on its readers. It means that your book was created by an imperfect human, and that, in the end, is how readers will see it.

Writing a book is much like having a baby. When you start you are scared to death, but also really excited. You don't really know what to expect with your first. You are reading books and getting advice from those who have done it before. You work and you write, and your baby slowly starts to develop. A few months go by and you see something that sort of looks like a book, but not entirely formed. Then once you have finished your work you are in the last trimester, you have a complete book, but now it just needs some final touches.

Then the big day comes, your deadline, or due date if you will. It’s time to push. Is your book fully ready to make it in the world on its own? No, not yet. Like a newborn it will need some nurturing before it is ready for release. But, you do have to deliver it. A mother can't keep her baby inside her for years until it is able to feed itself and walk and talk and has a fully developed immune system. Likewise, you as an author cannot hold on to your book nit picking it for years until it is a complete and perfect work of art, because there is no such thing.

Perfectionism will ruin you as an author. You have to know when your book is ready, not perfect. This takes time and trusting the advice of professionals. Trust me, your publisher won't publish a book that is not ready. Just remember that you are your own worst critic and you can read your book 5,000 times and still find flaws. Your book will never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean that it isn't ready for release into the world, or that it won't serve its purpose there.

It what ways to do you find perfectionism hindering your writing? Share with us in the comments section below.


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