Aug 15, 2019
The definition of perfectionism, how it shows up in a writer's
life, and what to do about it.
Hello Indie Authors! I'm Valerie Ihsan, and
This is Season Two, Episode 20 of the podcast and it's 8/14/2019
as I record this.
But first the personal update segment:
- Course work for Sweet Spot Strategy; contact me via email
to meet with me (virtually or locally) for a four question
interview. Tell me what your challenges are and how you think a
coach or mentor could help you.
- I'M READING: In fiction, Just finished Sparks by Maren Anderson
and loved it. Now reading First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen, also
loving it; Non-fiction: Almost done with Twyla Tharp's The Creative
- I'd like to remind everybody that this podcast is sponsored by
my supporters at Patreon. And being a patron of the arts is
a totally cool thing to do. Joining my Patreon
community also gets you sneak peeks
into my creative world. For $1/month, or more, less
than a pack of gum, you too can become a patron of the arts, and
me! Find me at: Patreon.com/valerieihsan.
Main topic: Perfectionism
I want to talk about perfectionism. What it is, how it shows up,
and what to do about it.
It has to be perfect before I can release it out into the
- People will think I'm dumb if it's bad.
- People will think I'm a loser if it's bad.
- I'll be embarrassed/horrified/ashamed/mortified.
- People won't take me seriously is if not professional.
- I'll let myself down if it's not the best I can do.
- [Xxx] won't be proud of me if it's not any good.
- (Stuck in cement.) Rewriting it for ten years and never
publishing it or moving on to another project.
- (Never start.) Find excuses why you can't work on your book.
(Kids, partner, no support, no resources, mental illness, chronic
health problems, job, too much to do...)
- I didn't want to be bad at something.
- Writing was what I was good at. I didn't want to find out
differently. Logically, I knew that books needed to be edited and
reworked after writing them, but somehow I didn't *actually*
believe that. Somewhere deep inside I thought that if I was good
enough (insert negative belief structure to read: good enough
person), it would be practically perfect and people would exclaim,
"What?! That's your rough draft?! No way!!"
- Not only did I not want to be bad at something, or more
accurately, *look* bad, I didn't want to know that I was sub-par.
Not good enough. As a human.
- WHAT TO DO
- Know that your first book will not be your best work ever. It
might be the best you can do *right now*, but you will grow as a
writer. Your skills will improve. Here's how I battled
perfectionism one time: I was just about to publish my first novel.
It was out at the ARC readers (which is past the point where you
want changes to your manuscript--unless it's dire) and one reader
(another author) got back to me about what she perceived as a lack
of motivation for some of the characters. As if, I--the
author--just wanted the characters to do something and so they did
it. I was so done with working on this book. It had taken me a
couple of years to finish and I was proud of it. When she gave me
the feedback, I said, "Thank you. I can maybe see how you'd think
that, but here's the thing. It's my first book. I know it's not
going to be the best thing I ever write. It's good enough for a
first book. I'll make more. But it's time to let this one go. I'm
not going to get to be any better of a writer by re-working the one
over and over for another six months to a year. But I will improve
by writing another whole one."
- And on another note: RESOURCE:
The Pursuit of Perfection: And How It Harms
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
- I've heard people say that if you aren't doing it, you don't
want it bad enough. I'd always get so mad hearing that. I did, too,
want it! I just had all this other stuff in the way--what I thought
were legit reasons. But, really, what they were was not excuses, it
was perfectionism. Perfectionism is self-doubt. AND, I've
discovered, a crazy mutant version of the inner-editor. So one
thing that helped with that was Nanowrimo. I learned two things the
first year I did it (and finished): 1) I worked faster than the
inner-editor could keep up. When I'd hear him running up behind me,
I stuff earplugs in and say, "It's not about quality, it's about
quantity. I just need the words right now." And, 2) I *did* have
time to write. With a family, raising two elementary school-aged
children, and homeschooling my 2nd grader. None of my
excuses worked. I wrote a whole novel in one month. (Maybe you'll
learn something different from Nanowrimo.)
- As far as the self-doubt goes, I just try to remember that
everyone (even Lee Child and Steven King and Sandra Brown and Clive
Cussler and Rachael Herron and Joanna Penn--read: all authors) has
self-doubt. It's part of the writing process. It's part of being an
author. When I remember that, I can default into self-care. I have
several in my toolbox:
- Artist Dates
- Connecting with other authors
- Surrounding myself with people who think I'm awesome
- Read books and listen to podcasts to get inspired, change my
mindset, and learn new things. (If I doubt my ability to do
something, I'll study it until I'm confident I can do it.)
- Do something that inspires me
Last thoughts about perfectionism--the kind that keeps you from
writing or putting your work out into the world:
- Go to Goodreads or Amazon and read the reviews of famous
authors. Lots of people hated The Great Gatsby; Eat, Pray, Love;
The Lovely Bones; and The Davinci Code. If your reviews are coming
in and some of them are 1 stars, you're a real writer, and in the
company of some of the greats.
- The biggest epiphany I ever had as a writer was: My husband is
not my target audience. I was never going to write a book that he
loved, and that was okay, because he didn't read the kind of books
I wrote. I was a much happier writer after that.
How does perfectionism show up in your writing life? How can you
deal with it and push through to success?