28 September, 2011

Perfectionist's Guide to Poor Writing

Writers' Wednesday!

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times:  throw up, then clean up.

As a perfectionist, this is easier said than done.  I want to control the angle, distance, splash pattern, contents, colors, smells...  you get the idea.

The reason for throwing up is that edit-as-you-go is a complete waste of time.  Until you have finished whatever you're writing  (a limerick, protest sign, tweet, treatise on wolf calls, or great American novel) all that precious editing you've done will have to be redone anyway.  Again, and again, and again.  You can literally waste weeks perfecting some scene that will end up being deleted after the end when even you'll agree it doesn't belong.  The more time you wasted perfecting it will make it that much harder to get rid of when it has to go.

Now for the big question:  If you're a perfectionist one parallel positioning of the three-hole punch away from full-blown OCD, how will you ever manage to move on from one word to the next without electroshock therapy?


I speak of candy in the general sense.  Could be cookies.  Could be fruit.  Could be dark chocolate covered peanut butter caramels...  for example.  Just be sure it has sugar and you give it to yourself after you've blasted through a mess of everything that rhymes with Nantucket but before you write about the man and his bucket.

It's not just the idea of the rewarding small steps that helps you forego editing for now.  The mind on sugar is as forgiving as Docker's pants with the little elastic parts by the belt loops.  And if you can caffeinate it...  Bingo!!  (thank you, Diet Dr. Pepper!)  I once knocked out a ten-pager on A Brave New World in five hours (including the time it took to "read" the last half of the book) all hopped up on No Doze, Mike&Ike, and a few soft drink cans.  I turned it in knowing my road to fame and fortune had just been paved on the most brilliant Huxley analysis ever!

Edit sober.  I repeat.  Edit when you are sober.  It's okay to stop mid-sentence and then proceed to rewrite the sentence without ever grazing the backspace key on a first draft.  But, those kinds of things need to be caught at least by the fourth draft.  And certainly before you think it's done.

Lemme take this time to advise that you write responsibly.  I am not trying to boost sales of insulin.  What I am saying is that if you (like me) are incapable of reigning in your perfectionist urges, find a way to motivate yourself to move on and find something that helps your mind not realize it just repeated the same word several times and managed to spell it differently every time.

What about you?  Are you a perfectionist?  How do you cope?  (And don't tell me you edit as you go.  That is just not an option.)


Anonymous said...


Gussie said...

Wow...I get it...that's how I write!

Raymond Henri said...

@Gussie. If this helps you, I'm overjoyed!

Elliott Smith said...

Congrats on the blog and more importantly, the baby! Hope to see you soon cousin.

Raymond Henri said...

@Elliott. Thanks and thanks! Me, too.

Rochelle said...

Great post. Thanks for this :-)

Sanjeev said...

Nice writing, good way to write.

Raymond Henri said...

@Rochelle and Sanjeev, you're certainly welcome and thank you!

Wildflower said...

I'm a perfectionist. I'm seeing a therapist and taking injections daily.

Raymond Henri said...

Thank you, wildflower. Thank you for being treated. I thank you. And the world thanks you. *looks up anti-perfectionism serums*