Monday, January 11, 2010

Give up on Perfectionism

When I first started writing a long time ago, it was difficult for me not to give in to perfectionism in my writing. I would fret and stew over each and every word. And that used to drive me crazy. I would really struggle to get anything at all out on the page. But why cause so much turmoil for myself, I wondered? Why not just relax and get the initial writing done first and then worry about perfecting the prose?
Perfectionism takes many different forms in writing. It may mean that you are paralysed to write because you feel that you haven't researched the topic enough. Or you may be uncertain because you don't think that you wrote the manuscript with a sufficient amount of specificity, sophistication or clarity. All of these uncertainties can really affect your overall output as a writer.
Writers must write, despite the fact that they don't have enough facts or information. Chances are if you have been doing a lot of reading and researching a topic, you have a sufficient amount of information to write about the topic. You aren't writing a doctoral dissertation after all.
Most writers cannot know everything there is to know about a topic anyway. It seems that there is just so much information out there that you could easily get information overload if you read for too long or take out too much material on a particular topic. Read a moderate amount of material and then start writing.
Once you start writing just keep writing without ceasing until you have a first draft of your manuscript. Don't let petty self-critical tactics stop you from putting the words on the page. Just write the first draft of your manuscript without worrying. Then, if after you have written the first draft, you find that you need more information or more research you could always add it later.
The same holds for word usage. If after you have written your manuscript you find that the language is either too sophisticated or not sufficiently sophisticated for your audience, you could change the words to reflect your audience. That is very much part of the redrafting stage and is a fundamental part of writing for the precise readership that you are intending your manuscript.
As in everything, balance is the key. Don't be a slacker and fail to do the research that is needed before you start writing. However, don't paralyse yourself with undue perfectionism either. Just dive in and get the manuscript written. You will be very glad when you have a first draft on your computer that you could then revise and make it better and better.
So strive for balance instead of perfectionism in your writing!

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