Perfectionism & Procrastination

Perfectionism, Procrastination and other annoying “P” words for writers of all kinds.

Two phrases I most dislike are “Push through the fear and do it anyway.” and “Just do it.”

Now I will grant you that many of us belong to the procrastinators club — whose motto is:  “When faced with a deadline for a project, I will complete it in the exact proportion to the amount of pain I will suffer if I don’t do it at all.

Most of us are not really procrastinators, but perfectionists.

We could be afraid of not doing it perfectly, or perhaps not having enough information or education on the subject.  The second is easily fixed by researching, and bless the net for the ability to do research quickly and easily.  No longer do we have to pull out the dictionary, the thesaurus, and Encyclopedia Brittanica and pull 4 or 5 books off the shelf, nor do we have to go to a local travel agent and get quantities of brochures about far away places, and neither do we have to consult some local expert.

Today ‘Google it’ is my favourite phrase. The world of knowledge is literally at our fingertips.

It is the former “perfectionism” that is the tough one, but only if you make it so.

As an author and a publisher, I have learned that there are three main steps to writing a novel (or a short story, or even an article), and they are:

1 Research  (which is about 10% of the job)
2 Write the story, etc. (which is about another 8% of the job) … and …
3 Edit – (which is 82% of the job) – and is not about perfectionism so much as it is about being readable, understandable, clear, concise, appealing, and salable.
After all, you want people to be able to read and understand what you have written, be impressed enough to follow you in some way, and to purchase from you.

Sometimes, as a writer, I may be viewed as procrastinating because I write when inspiration strikes (as it did in this article). I refuse to force myself to write when inspiration is hiding in a dark closet somewhere, because if I force the writing, it lies on the page like a piece of soggy spaghetti and slowly congeals into a piece of dross.

So my advice is, spend time thinking about your project (ideas will start to come).  Do your research and then begin to record some of the ideas you have conjured up, whether you use a computer or paper.  As you commence with the writing process, ideas will start to flow faster, but keep writing them down. Then, when you have spilled all your ideas onto computer, begin sorting, clarifying, and general editing.  If you really desire a little more perfection, give it to someone else to do the final editing. Then publish — net, blog, email, or whatever way you choose. By having someone else do the final edit, you will relieve yourself of “perfectionism stress”.

Trust me – someone will always find an error somewhere – but don’t worry about this – simply send a congratulating email to that person, telling them you had done this deliberately as you were conducting an experiment.

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