The Curse of Avoidance Perfectionism

In writing and in life I cope with what I call “avoidance perfectionism.”  The basic concept is that I’m a perfectionist but not the kind that manages to produce.  I avoid trying new things until I know I will do them perfectly the first time.  This doesn’t work out well in many, many areas.  In writing it sets me up for spectacular levels of fail.  If I just “think” about a project it can remain perfect in my head.  But if I start actually working on said project it will immediately become less than perfect.

Of course the main problem is that you can’t do anything perfectly the first time, especially writing.  You have to embrace the suck of a first draft.  My avoidance perfectionism gets even worse when I’m trying a new style or genre.  I completely freak out.  The problem is made worse by the fact that I like new things and I get bored easily…I know, I’m a mass of contradictions.  Let’s just say I like the idea of trying a new style or genre more than I like the work of actually doing it.

But trying new things helps us grow! And it helps us get better at the old things!  I know both of these statements to be true, which is why I do, eventually, force my way through the paralyzing fear before the start (and in the middle, and at the end) of a new project.

I wish the rest of this post was really super helpful and practical tips for letting go of the fear and trying new things or ways to turn off the internal editor.  I feel extremely under-qualified to give such advice because right now my internal editor is pitching a full on hissy fit.  I’m at a total loss on how to shut her up and how to let go of that little voice that says “you’re not good enough, everything you’re working on sucks.”

So what are your tips for getting past that voice?  What do you do if it rears its ugly head in the middle of a project and you can’t figure out which way to proceed?

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3 thoughts on “The Curse of Avoidance Perfectionism

  1. I know this fear too well! And that damned voice, oy vey. I have a few coping strategies. One, I just repeatedly tell the voice to shut up. Sometimes I have to resort to swearing. Other times I look for advice from other writers–a Google search on first drafts yields a lot helpful things about how much first drafts are supposed to suck. Through it all I grit my teeth and just keep writing. Even if I know what’s coming out is crap. I reassure myself by reminding myself that I can always fix it later because computers make that easy. A good cry can help release the pressure, too.

    Oh, and for every new project I create a free-write file where I let all of that fear and anxiety out. I also use it to think through plot points and characters’ relationships–anything I need to figure out or untangle before I take a deep breath and head into the WIP itself.

    I hope those are helpful tips. And you’re a great writer! Hang in there and you’ll get it done!

  2. Ooooh, I love Beth’s idea of a free write file! That’s cool …

    … Writing is a weird thing for me. I do most of my drafting in my head, and like – with #EnchantedDarcy, for example, I have the whole story in my head (minus a few of the minor details), but so far as actually *writing* it down? I get easily distracted-slash-bored. I know all the filler, but I want to write the good stuff! 😉 And re: the voice of negativity — it’s not one in my head, it’s voices of people who’ve told me over the years that I can’t write anything worth reading. (We’re talking professors who were in charge of my grades for what I was writing. Oy.) It is their voices I hear when I’m “meh” … but it fires me up. Because underneath the quiet Elven Librarian demeanor, is a kickass rebel princess 😉 And if you tell me I *can’t* do something, I’m going to show you exactly how well I *can*. ((I’m actually planning to write a “Thanks, jerk, how you like this?” acknowledgement one day …)) So yeah. I guess my advice/coping/etc is to let it get you MAD. Let your rebel fire spark to life, and just show the voice – whether it’s your own head, or someone actually speaking ill to you – that it doesn’t know heck. 🙂

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