I have been called a perfectionist. I don’t think that is a bad thing and has served me well in my academic life as well as in my career. I like to think it makes me a better writer, too, but it has its downside–Perfection as a writer is impossible to attain.
While everyone around me seems to produce multiple books a year, I manage one. I can’t even wrap my head around the concept of “pantsing”, not using a plotting structure to plan my stories. I have to know where the story will end and the road my main character is going to take to get there.I spend a lot of time preparing to write the story and imagining how the scene will unfold. I can’t sit down and write until I have every detail set in my mind. There is no hope of jotting things down in short, intermittent amounts of time.
Another disadvantage of being a perfectionist writer is that I read many craft books and go to workshops and at first believe that I can follow all those rules. As a result, I spend days changing minute details. I have to force myself to stop so as not to edit the life out of my story. It’s also difficult for me to turn my work loose in the world, but once it is published I can’t read it again because I know I will want to change something.
While they don’t seem the same on the surface, perfectionism sometimes manifests as lack of confidence. There are too many variables for writing to meet the standards a perfectionist sets for herself. Any criticism can be devastating. We have to understand that we can’t please everyone. Many writers can say it, but deep down, I’m not sure we all believe it. It’s a hard lesson to learn.
In the end, I suppose, I have to admit that, in writing, perfection is overrated. I write best when I relax, get to know my characters, focus on the story, and have fun. After all, that’s what I hope my readers do, too.