Get a cup of tea because we’re here for the long haul, campers. You ready? Okay.
Perfectionism can look different to what I typically associate with it.
I thought I wasn’t a perfectionist because I started a blog where I had to write every day regardless of how polished or refined my writing was. I thought this excluded me from the perfectionist category because I had to publish things that I wasn’t always happy with. Or, in the least, made me realise that things don’t have to be fully polished to be worth showing.
When I sew I do it quickly and won’t bother unpicking something crooked; I only unpick thread if I’ve sewn the wrong pieces together. Again, I thought this fact made me fall into the definitely-not-a-perfectionist category.
But a few days ago, I made the decision to rewrite my entire novel. Not to delete it, because that would feel pretty tragic, but to literally change everything about it except for a few details. In essence, deleting 90% of what I’d already written.
Why would I undo 70,000 words that no one’s read except for me?
In thinking about why I would do this, here are my conclusions and my thoughts on perfectionism.
My writing will never be good enough by ‘perfect’ standards, so it’s easier to redo my entire novel than to be humiliated when someone reads it and finds a fault. I want it to be perfect but it will literally never reach such a point.
The problem is this; by wanting to write the perfect novel, I will never finish writing a novel.
I’ll rewrite version one, and then version two, and then version three, and then I’ll start a new novel that I’ll rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. I’ll tell myself that each rewrite is improving it when in reality it just means not finishing anything, not seeing anything to completion. If I’m reaching for perfection I will never like my work. I will never think my words are good enough to be read by anyone, and I will spend my life feeling like a failure.
I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this.
As I said, I wouldn’t consider myself a perfectionist; I would say I generally don’t put in as much effort as I should, or I don’t challenge myself enough. So the fact that my novel has opened my eyes in regards to perfectionism in myself shows that striving for perfection doesn’t look the same on everyone and it can be disguised by other things, like false humility or a modest attitude in wanting to improve.
In this, striving for perfection isn’t the same as setting goals or wanting to improve at something. There’s nothing wrong with setting genuine goals for yourself to get better at something or to reach milestones. There’s a lot about writing I can learn, but there’s a difference between me wanting to be a better writer and me never being happy with what I write and feeling like I’ll never be good enough.
This blog post is an incomplete thought as I’m still in the midst of it.
I’m not happy with my novel and I have no idea where to go from here. But I do know that I want to be proud of what I write and I want to tell a story worth hearing and even if my novel never gets published or whatever, I want to enjoy the process of writing just because! I don’t want to give up now, when I’ve written more than I ever have before, just because it can’t be perfect. Every author gets bad reviews. Every author has the chance to give it all up because of a rejection, because of someone else’s opinion. If every author out there only published perfect work, books wouldn’t exist. Because someone, somewhere, would be able to find a flaw. We can’t create perfection because we’re human. Only God can do that, only Jesus is perfect. Why exhaust ourselves by fighting for something so unattainable in this lifetime? We should be proud of what we make.
I don’t have the answer here (I’m still wondering how I can be lazy and a perfectionist) but Jesus is the solution, even though I don’t know what that looks like yet.