Perfectionism vs. writing

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    Hope Ann

    This week’s question is from Madelyn!

    What do you do when perfectionism suppresses your writing?

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

    Alabama Rose

    Hi Madelyn! I used to struggle with this so much, and I still do sometimes, but I’m learning how to change it.

    Here’s what I suggest:

    1. Just write. It doesn’t have to be perfect!

    “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

    ― Jodi Picoult

    That quote always motivates me! Just get your thoughts down, even if it’s garbage. Give yourself the freedom to write messy words!

    2. Set a timer and see how much you can write!

    I use something called The Most Dangerous Writing App, which times you (you can pick how long you write) and if you stop writing for a few seconds it’ll delete what you’ve written so far. I started with three minutes, because I was too scared I’d lose all my progress. But as long as you write steadily, no matter how bad it sounds, you can get so many words down!

    3. Leave the editing and perfection for when you are actually editing

    “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

    — Terry Pratchett

    First, tell the story to yourself. Even if it’s choppy, or doesn’t quite make sense, just do your best and keep going. Then afterwards, when you’re ready to edit, you have something to work with and you can pull out your editing mindset! Fix all those stiff sentences and awkward phrases. Make it amazing. But don’t let perfection stop you from getting your words on the page.

    I hope that helps! This is what I do, and I’ve heard other opinions too, so I’d love to hear what everyone else says! 🙂

    Courage, dear heart ~ Aslan



    That is some great advice! Thank you! 😀 I’ll have to check out that writing app. I struggle with this too, so I don’t know why I didn’t start a topic on it myself, LOL I haven’t been writing very long, so I don’t think I have much to say that would help. Right now I just listen and put in when I think I have some good advice.

    I light the arrow, pull the bow,
    Shoot that fire right through my soul.

    Alabama Rose


    You’re welcome! I sure hope it helps!

    Yeah, I get that! I think this is probably the first time I’ve ever offered advice on a thread. 😂 Normally I don’t have much to say either, but I think it’ll come more as you begin to get more experience with writing!

    Nice to meet you by the way! How long have you been on S.E?

    Courage, dear heart ~ Aslan


    I like that quote about being able to edit a bad page, but not a blank one. Well said!


    I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist usually, but this post is timely, as I’ve found myself hung up–and I mean completely hung up–on Chapter Nine of my WIP. What’s with the number nine?

    Anyway, what I’ve found helpful is just to pretend I’ve got the chapter…scene…paragraph…sentence…word… more or less the way I want it and then move on, telling myself I’m allowed to come back later and “fix” it. When I eventually do go back, sometimes I realize it wasn’t so bad after all, and sometimes, once I’ve given the problem portion time to “percolate” I’ll know exactly what’s wrong.

    Currently chugging away at Chapter Ten…



    Arindown (Gracie)

    @bama-rose That was a really good piece of advice.😊

    Ah, chapter 9. Mine was chapter 21…the longest, hardest, most horribly written chapter in my whole book so far.😁


    I’m not one that typically struggles with perfectionism in life, but with writing, it has been a problem sometimes. Alabama Rose probably put it better than I ever could, but I’ll add my two cents anyway.

    The thing I’ve learned is to stop holding myself to a standard. Just write. When working on the first draft of a novel, it’s better to write a page of the worst you’ve ever jotted, than one perfect sentence. Perfect sentences will come later.

    Your first draft is the kid you, playing in the mud after the rain. Your finished product is more like a clay sculpture…completely detailed.

    Jump in puddles, throw wads of goop, get dirty, and worry about the rest later.

    "If I'm gonna break, I'll break like the dawn." -Nightbirde

    Elisha Starquill

    That’s some great advice! I would add, as a perfectionist myself, that sometimes I need to remember to have fun. Which is harder than that sounds. It’s so easy for me to get caught up with making every little sentence absolutely perfect with the right amount of foreshadowing and showing-not-telling and character motivation and all that nitty-gritty. When that happens, I lose sight of the joy of just…creating, and oftentimes I end up not writing anything, or just procrastinating.

    Of course, there is a place for the technical, structural side, otherwise you’d get the mess that my younger self produced when she wrote blissfully while breaking every writing rule out there. But at the same time, that younger self was not hampered by perfectionism, and she finished story after story. Like most things, I think it’s important to not be as extreme as I am balance both sides, keeping story structure/writing advice in mind while not letting it stifle the pure fun of creating worlds and souls out of twenty six letters.

    "Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

    Mischievous Thwapling

    Wow, all of this is super helpful for me, guys.  Thank you all.


    I didn’t even realize it until I read your post, but I’ve been quite guilty of that.  Lately, I’ve been procrastinating writing my book and telling myself that I’ll do it later.  It’s because I’ve been letting that technical, structural side suck all the fun out of it, and I didn’t even know it!  Thanks for that, it is extremely eye-opening and beneficial for me. 🙂

    "I threw stones at the stars, but the whole sky fell."

    Taylor Clogston

    Fantastic advice from @bama-rose .

    My productivity increased when I started setting deadlines for myself.

    If I have eight total hours to edit this draft, then I sit down, start my timer, and work at it for however long. When I’m done with a session, I log my time in a spreadsheet. When that time adds up to eight hours, I’m done with that draft and it’s time to work on something else.

    It turned my mindset from perfecting one chapter at a time (which is a terrible workflow for most people and may or may not result in tearing your hair out later when you learn something new or make a stylistic change which requires you to re-perfect all those previous chapters) to iterative editing where I pass over the whole draft in a short period of time, performing a few closely related edits across the whole manuscript.

    Experimenting, failing, seeing the result of a final project helps more than rewriting the same book for five years. I know, I’ve done both.

    “Perfect” is the enemy of “good enough.”

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita


    I didn’t see this till now, but I’m still going to answer because I’ve struggled with the same thing, Madelyn!

    I read your question and knew immediately what I was going to say.

    And then I saw Alabama’s reply.

    She answered with exactly what I was thinking, just in a more refined way. 😉 But then again, she’s always had the reputation of stealing my ideas and using them… or maybe it’s the other way around… 😉 😀

    But @bama-rose, I have to give it to you. You said it perfectly. Just like I would’ve. Still reading my thoughts I see. 😉

    So anyway, what I did was simply started writing. I basically forced myself not to be so perfectionistic by setting a timer and seeing how much I could write in that time. I still didn’t write as fast as I possibly could because I still cared about the quality of the writing, but I came to realize what Alabama said. You really can’t edit a blank page. So start writing.

    And if you didn’t guess by now, it was indeed my dear friend Alabama Rose who taught me not to be so perfectionistic with my writing. 😉 She’s a great teacher. So I recommend that you take her advice and put it into practice. 🙂 You can do it!

    Even the smallest person can change the course of the future. -JRR Tolkien



    I love the way you put it. Playing in the mud. 🙂 Super cute.

    I’ll keep it in mind.

    Even the smallest person can change the course of the future. -JRR Tolkien

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