Let It Go

Feb 26, 2014 by

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to look at my writing process differently.  I am a huge perfectionist and this can cause serious problems especially in the early stages of a new project.  How can I make it as perfect as it is in my head? There is always a brain/fingers disconnect – the gorgeous movie reel I see in my mind never quite translates correctly into typed words.

Fellow Indie Janeite Kimberly Truesdale wrote an amazing post called Precious Prose in which she talks about trying to make her words less “precious” to her.  This quote really spoke to me:

 

As writers, we get attached to our words. We often get caught up in word count and in getting things just right. We can linger over one word for a long time, wondering if it truly expresses all that we mean to say, and terrified that there’s another word out there that might do the job better than the one we have. We can linger the same way over sentences, paragraphs, chapters, worrying them until they are unrecognizable

 

Kim then goes onto talk about the value of the finish – of getting things DONE.  So much goodness in this post, make sure to go read it.  I want to use Kim’s point about making our prose less precious to us because this is something she and I are trying to hold each other accountable for.

 

It’s hard to put into words what my actual goal for the year is.  I joke that it is “writing ALL THE WORDS” but it is more than that.  It’s more than just substantially increasing my output or writing books at a quicker pace…I have so many stories living in my head, but sometimes the sheer amount of potential story scares me…The actual goal, I think, is letting go.  That letting go is twofold – one part is prying the claws of perfectionism out of my own mind, and the other is giving up the overly emotional attachment I have to those words.

 

What I am NOT advocating is putting out unedited work (I’ve been super clear about this in the past, but I feel it has to be said again).  I have actual nightmares about finding typos in published books.  I am, however, advocating thinking differently about the writing and editing process – and possibly truncating both.  I know my own potential and limits and I want to push through those limits and expand the boundaries of my potential.

 

I’m starting with limiting the amount of time I spend on a rough draft.  You cannot know the true potential of a story until it’s down on paper (or in a word processing document).  The story is what is important here; not what words are perfect, not poetry, not a lovely turn of phrase – the story.

 

I’m also going to shorten my rewriting and editing phases.  Again, this doesn’t mean I skip any of those phases, it doesn’t mean I put out unedited work, it means I put story ahead of pretty words. I can edit forever.  Literally forever.  I would love to pull Awake off sale right now and slash about 20 thousand words out of it.  It’s true!  It was my first novel and I’ve learned so much more about story-telling since I wrote it.  But it’s out there and I have to accept that – and not just accept it but embrace it and build on it.

 

You never get better if you never move on.

 

Whatever project I’m working on right now doesn’t have to end up being perfect, just as good as I can get it right now. And then I need to let it go.  Let it live its own life out in the world and not stress about how it could have been slightly more awesome if only I’d done a, b, or c.

 

And now for a video clip.

 

 

File under: Jess is looking for ways to tie Frozen into EVERYTHING she talks about…and this song is perfect.

 

One thing I love about Elsa’s character development in Frozen is that she’s not really sure what she’s capable of until she starts really using her power.  When she spends too much time about controlling it the power fights her, consumes her.  When she finally embraces it and puts it out there for the world to see she realizes she’s capable of so much more than she ever dreamed.

 

So that’s my goal for they year: embrace the fact that I have a million stories clamoring for attention in my head, don’t be afraid of writing ALL the words, don’t expect them to be perfect but don’t be afraid of the work of making them the best they can be, and then finally of letting go of the story.

 

What say you? Do you struggle with perfectionism?  What are your writing process goals for this year?

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11 Comments

  1. Joanna

    I’m one who rewrites the five previous chapters before I can even start on the next one. I’ve been trying not to do that this year, and it’s surprising how well it has worked. And part of how I have decided to get over that hurdle is to send my projects out to my betas a handful of chapters at a time. So far, it’s worked great, and hopefully (fingers crossed) it will keep working this year!

  2. This makes all the sense. It’s funny, I don’t really have hang ups when I’m “in” the first draft, I just plow ahead like a madman on fire without a care in the world. I don’t think. I don’t look back. I just move in a forward-ish direction until I can shout from the rooftops I AM A GOLDEN GOD.

    Having said that.

    It’s the editing process that pulls me into the “ohmygoshthisallsuckssomuchitshouldneverseethelightofday.” And that’s when I’ll stumble and fumble and become an emo mess unable to move forward and I assume things about my work and me and my readers and potential readers and it’s a huge cluster of horribleness.

    My goal this year is to ignore those little voices in my head that whisper to me nonstop that I’m not good enough, that my writing sucks, and to let go and *do* something.

    Sort of be one with the wind and sky. ;)

    • Ang, for me it could be either the drafting or the editing, it really depends on the project. But I will always find a place to doubt myself/trip myself up majorly at least once per project.

  3. That’s a great way of looking at writing and a great piece of advice – one that I definitely need to implement in my writing now that my main goal is to complete my fantasy novel that I’ve been working on for more than two years now. I’m about to start The Great Revision and I’ll definitely keep this article in mind!

  4. Good perspective, since I’m in the midst of doing some editing right now. I’m a super messy and fast writer of first drafts. Then I have to untangle it, which can get discouraging. I need to look at my approach as well – thanks!

  5. RivkaBelle

    My goal: FINISH THE THING!!!
    Ahem.
    And then, you know, I can figure out the rest of this whole process thing ;)

  6. I don’t struggle with perfectionism at all. Nope, never.

    I’m working on this too (blog post on Thursday, actually), and I’ve found forcing myself to work for an hour a day, even if I don’t do anything but move text around in my file, is tremendously helpful. Otherwise, I am like Elsa, trapping it all inside me and becoming more and more convinced that I can never write the version of the book that is in my head.

    Let it go!

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