IWSG: Perfection Defection

1st Wednesday of the month is Insecure Writers Support Group. It’s a blog hop where you post about the joys and difficulties of being a writer.

When I was a kid, I was forever writing stories, yet my table remained littered with empty notebooks. If I made a single mistake, I'd tear out the page, throw it away and start writing all over again. If halfway down the page I spelled a word wrong, I'd tear it out and rewrite it all again. And again.

Perfectionism. It's a heavy, ugly word that sits like a brick wall between creativity and achievement. I've been so afraid of mistakes that my work sucked for much longer than it needed to. It's supposed to be bad at first. You suck, you learn, you suck less. That's the natural order. But I rarely wrote anything new and kept turning in the same crap to teachers and writing contests, waiting for someone to recognize my genius.

A college prof called me on it, pointing out that I was lazily turning in old stories and even after feedback, I turned them in again, unedited. She said I would never be a great writer if I didn't give up my fear ofmistakes. She was right. When I wrote my first manuscript, it was dreadful. Then I wrote another and it sucked too. With each one I've gotten better. Then I formed a writing group, took a lot of painful crit and got MUCH better. 

 The other day, I re-read a blog post by Kristen Lamb entitled, Is Your Subconscious Mind Setting You Up for Failure? and found it resonated with exactly what I wanted to say today.

The reason perfectionism is particularly nefarious is perfection is an impossible goal. Thus, when we buy into perfectionism we’re automatically setting ourselves up for failure, disappointment, self-loathing and neuroses. Perfection can’t be attained so the goal can never be reached...  Striving for excellence? Totally different story. We can be excellent without being “perfect.” Excellence ships. Excellence has deadlines. I can finish and let go of an excellent book. A perfect book? Good way to still be editing the same book for a decade.

Perfectionism is qualitative, where as excellence is QUANTITATIVE. We can’t measure an imaginary ideal. We can, however measure PROGRESS.
— Kristen Lamb

That is it in a nutshell. Perfectionism will lead you nowhere.You'll always be competing with others and coming up short. Learn from my mistakes. Don't be a slave to the clean page, terrified that any mistake or criticism is a sign that you aren't good enough.

You've got shit to say and it can't wait for perfection.

So go out and write. Scribble in the margins, spell things horriafacallly wrong. Make beautiful mistakes and learn from them.

Perfection is a path to nowhere. It's artistic stagnation. The path to excellence is paved with crappy first drafts. So write toward excellence, not perfection.