Just Do It

Jun 26, 2013 by

I originally wrote this post for Indie Jane in 2011.  I’ve found myself facing a similar perfectionism dilemma with my current projects, so I thought now would be a perfect time to repost this. 

 

I am a major perfectionist.

My perfectionism takes an even more self-defeating form than most because I suffer from what I call “avoidance perfectionism.” See, if I never START a project, I can’t mess it up. It therefore remains perfect in my mind. I suppose like Lady Catherine “if I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”

This affects many parts of my life, most notably housework. It also affects my ability to write. All that lovely writing advice you hear out there about turning off your internal editor? Those people are talking to me! If I were to do a breakdown on editor vs. non-editor-purely-creative-part-of-my-brain I would put it at about 75/25. It’s not a healthy situation.

Maybe you are like me, and your internal editor screams and screams and refuses to shut up, or you find it best to maintain perfection by complete avoidance. If so, how do we overcome and actually get some writing done?

This is going to sound so simple . . . and maybe a bit condescending . . . that is totally not my intent at all. Here is what works for me.

Just do it.

You know, like Nike.

Swoosh.

All that crap about the first step is the hardest, and a journey of a bazillion miles begins with a single step – it kind of all pertains here. The hardest part of writing is that first word, that first sentence, that first chapter, getting something on that page. Staring at a blank screen or a blank piece of paper has to be the most intimidating thing ever in the history of man. And guess what the second hardest part is? Starting again after you stop – whether it’s for the day, a week, a month, a year . . . whenever you come back to your work in progress it can be just as hard to restart as it was to start, to put fingers to keys and keystrokes to screen. It just is!

So you know what, you have to just do it. Take the plunge. Tell your internal editor to shut up. Editing is for later. Right now it is like drawing without an eraser, forward and forward only (many thanks to my artist friend Victoria for that analogy, it’s now my mantra). It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be.

I was having a conversation with Nancy the other day about a plot point in the novel I’m working on and I kept saying “Well I think I want so-and-so to do this, but I’m not sure how to get there, yadda yadda.” I finally came to the conclusion that I just needed to have the character do it! I could spend the entire writing session waffling on about how to make it work, whether or not I should do it, or I could just write it. (Side note, this works because I am a total pantser, don’t even start with the “how can you be a pantser and a perfectionist?” If I spent time making charts and graphs I’d get caught up in making those perfect and never writer a gol’durn thing. The end.)

And that, my lovelies, is the best writing advice I could give to anyone. It is also advice I have to give myself on a daily basis. Just do it. Stop over-thinking. Stop waffling. Stop finding excuses to not write. Just do it.

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5 Comments

  1. Panster Perfectionist! Want it on a T-shirt.

  2. You’ll have to give me a T-shirt too. I’ve earned one.

    Actually, this is kinda where I am at the moment. I’ve got lots of excuses… I mean perfectly valid reason why I can’t get much of a start on my current project. Mostly it’s that, unlike my usual pantser style, this book I HAVE to research and plot first. And it’s driving me crazy.

    I did manage to get chapter one written. In it, Jane Austen is about to start her next novel. She pauses, pen poised over the pristine paper, thinking, “This is the moment that both thrills and terrifies me, when all things are possible but nothing has yet been accomplished.”

    Sounds like you and JA think alike, Jessica. I’m sure she was a perfectionist too.

    • I’m sure she was. I don’t know that I could ever compare myself with her though…at least I have the benefit of computers. I would die if I had to write by hand.

  3. As far as “how do I get my characters to the point where they do this thing?” I tend to follow the advice of some famous person: I try to leave out the parts people skip. So if I’m here in my novel, and I want to be there, and I’m slogging through the sludge in between… well, if I think it’s sludge, so will the reader, and they’ll skip it. I write a very short transition, “Over the next few weeks blah blah blah” and then jump straight into the next scene.

    Just do it!

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