I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12-years-old, and at this point, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that I have many, many story ideas. Some are novels and some are screenplays. The genres are varied – general fiction, young adult supernatural, comedy, drama, romance, young adult fantasy. Over the years, I’ve started to write at least half a dozen of these stories, but I’ve only ever completed a thriller novel and two screenplays (one drama, one comedy), all three of which were co-written with my writing partner. I always thought that accountability was the biggest block to actually finishing (and pitching!) my own books, but I’ve come to realize that the real problem–and my true archenemy–is perfectionism.
This isn’t a light-bulb revelation for me. Perfectionism is something that I’ve always struggled with in numerous facets of my life. But woo boy, it’s most definitely held me back the most when it comes to writing. To me, writing is like visiting another plane of existence. When I am in my creative zone, everything is so much more vivid. Time is fluid and meaningless. The only thing that matters is a steady flow of words that breathe life and soul into my characters and plot. The day that I finished writing the aforementioned thriller novel, I wrote the final six chapters in an uninterrupted 8-hour stretch. It actually kind of scared me, that the day got away from me so easily, but man was I pumped and feeling so accomplished afterwards.
Writers battling perfectionism is nothing new. I’ve read many articles on it. I’ve chatted with fellow writers about it. I’ve bemoaned it in my own journal more times than I can count. So, how does one overcome perfectionism in writing? I think the strategy depends on the writer. Some people may join a writing group or class to hold them accountable and provide daily support and encouragement. Others may embark on some sort of writing challenge. For me, there are a few things that come to mind so that I can conquer this annoying writing block once and for all:
- Trust: I’m a new age woo woo type of spiritual person. I believe in the Universe as a divine source, I love soul searching, and I’m constantly trying to connect to my higher self for wisdom and guidance. So, all of that being said, I need to actually trust that these story ideas have come to me for a reason, and that reason is that I am meant to write them. And, ya know, finish them.
- Focus and commit: I constantly lose momentum in whichever writing project I’m currently working on and then switch to a different project. I tell myself it’s because I’m just not aligned with that story at that moment, so I should move on to something else that excites me more. Besides, that way I’m at least writing, right? Wrong. I need to actually focus and commit to ONE story idea, start to finish. A few blog posts ago, I wrote about a new story idea that I had, and I went a good six weeks with writing on it daily. Then I started to harshly judge everything I was writing as complete and total shit (hello, perfectionism!), which of course made me lose motivation. So I switched to a young adult story I started (and never finished) years ago. And the same thing happened all over again – I was gung ho writing daily on it for a few weeks, then started to hate what I was producing, and now I don’t want to work on that story any more. So, I now commit to focus on my newest novel idea, Destination Happiness, and pour everything I have into it.
- Just write already: Like, for real, Pam. Just write already. Stop making up excuses. Yes, it is super challenging to find the time and energy to write when I have a high stress and all-consuming day job. That is my reality. BUT, I can get back into the habit of reserving my Saturday or Sunday for writing. In fact, I can look forward to that date with my imagination, because I know that once I actually sit down and surrender to story, I feel good. It makes me happy.
Writing is the thing that lights me up. It’s part of who I am. So no more allowing perfectionism to take my muse hostage. I have tons of story ideas–fun, relatable story ideas–that I want to share with others. So I will write, and I will write often. I will finish my latest book. And if that book is then pitched and published and results in loads of cash and my gleeful escape from the harrowing 9-to-5 grind, then all the better.
Take that, perfectionism.