Years ago, the PR department I worked in watched a video called Don’t Worry Be Crappy with Guy Kawasaki, a key marketer during Apple’s early days. The gist of the video was don’t try so hard to have everything be perfect before you move forward. If you do, you’ll never get anything done. In order to be innovative you’ve got to take risks, do things you’re not familiar with, and yes, be crappy.
Perfectionism is paralyzing. Because really, when are we ever really 100% pleased with anything?
In the same vein, I recently read some writing advice from Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series. She recommended doing no editing at all on your first draft until you had the whole thing written out. Don’t even look back at what you’ve just written for consistency. Just barf it all out on the page. She writes that you should expect your first draft to stink. That’s the nature of a first draft.
Instead of worrying so much about making sure every word is a beautiful butterfly, just get it all out on the screen. Then go back and look for major things that need repair – like voice inconsistencies, a botched climax, etc. Then once those major things are fixed, you can worry about fixing grammar, tweaking metaphors, and other finer points.
I found her suggestions liberating. Perfectionism makes it hard to type anything because we want it all to be our best work. But the reality is, nobody’s first draft is perfect. Just spill it all out there – the good, the cliched, the ridiculous – then go back and delete the junk and save the good.
Keeping the big picture in mind has helped me not worry as much about wordsmithing at this stage. But it takes discipline to keep the editor in me from hacking away at things prematurely.
Do you struggle with perfectionism in your writing or other areas? What liberates you?