A Writer’s Life: Ditching Perfection

Today we are starting a new feature on the RWA blog, where we interview our members about their writing lives.   Today’s guest is Anna Hackett.  This column first appeared in this month’s Hearts Talk, the RWA newsletter.  So if you are a member, don’t forget to read it.  And if you aren’t, you might want to join, now that you’ve seen what you’re missing out on!

Anna-Hackett2-208x300When I started writing this article, I tried to think about the things I’d like to go back and tell my younger writer self. Little pearls of wisdom I wish I’d known when I first started writing. The list got a little long…and many of those things I think I just needed to experience and grow through as part of my journey as a writer.

But one thing stood out.

There is one thing that made a big difference in my writing career and it is the one thing I wish I could have realized sooner.

That thing: ditching the pursuit of perfection.

Now, many of us are conditioned to think we need to achieve perfection in our lives (especially women!) We think we need the perfect house, kept in the perfect condition, with our perfectly behaved kids, our loving, perfect marriage, our perfect, successful career and we have to look perfect while we’re doing all of that! We feel the need to be superwoman and have it all.

There’s a quote by Salvador Dali — Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it. He’s right. Deep down, we all know it.

As writers, we can fall into the trap of needing our writing to be “perfect.” It’s easy to do. When that story idea bursts inside our head, it seems flawless. It’s exciting, thrilling, gut-wrenching. It’s the best story idea ever! Then once we start putting the words to the blank page…well, the story never seems to come out as perfectly as what we had in our head. That’s when the pursuit of perfection becomes harmful. The doubts, the dreaded inner editor, all start whispering (or shouting) at us and suddenly we’re avoiding doing the writing, we’re agonizing over it, we’re procrastinating.

If we do manage to get the draft done, then that pursuit of perfection can have us endlessly editing and polishing—over and over—and we’re never quite finished. But it doesn’t stop there. The elusive pursuit of perfect can mean we never let our story out into the world. We worry it isn’t good enough, that we’ll receive criticism, rejections from agents and publishers, bad reviews from readers and reviewers, no sales. It can paralyze us from doing that thing we’re supposed to do—tell and share the stories inside us.

I don’t remember when I finally decided to give perfection a boot to the face, but it was the best thing I ever did. Suddenly, I was focused on just getting words out—any words, they didn’t have to be perfect or even good ones. Then I focused on editing until the story was done (not perfect!) Then I sent those stories out there as they were, for better or worse.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep learning, honing our craft, and improving. We should also always listen to trusted, constructive criticism that helps us become better writers. But if you keep waiting for your stories to be perfect, you’re letting good, great, wonderful, and pretty darn awesome stories get away.

If you’re waiting until your story is so amazing, so perfect that everyone will love it, no one will criticize it, and it’ll never get a bad comment…you’ll never begin, let alone finish.

So, don’t let your good, great and amazing pass you by.

Ditch perfection and begin.

– Anna Hackett [http://annahackettbooks.com]

Western Australian writer Anna Hackett is a mining engineer, a mother of two young sons, and a USA Today bestseller. She writes fast-paced action/adventure/sci-fi/romance. She’s published with Harlequin and Carina Press and now she’s self-publishing and writing up a storm.

 

Anne Gracie’s A Writer’s Life is a regular column featured in Romance Writers of Australia’s monthly journal, Hearts Talk. Packed full of articles on craft, the publishing industry and interviews with romance authors, Hearts Talk is a valued and much-loved benefit to your RWA membership. If you’re not already an RWA member, join up here [http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/99/Join-RWA].

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the great blog post, Anna. You’re absolutely right! I spent so much time trying to make my first manuscript perfect, that I stuffed it up. After lots of soul-searching, I decided to drop my idea of making my story perfect. I started writing another book and anytime I start worrying about whether or not it’s good enough, I give myself a mental nudge and stop the self-defeating behaviour. Now my writing is more enjoyable again.

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