Today’s Wednesday Words of Wisdom come from writer Anne Lamott. I read Anne Lamott’s book on writing called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life in preparation for NaNoWriMo. Compared to other books on writing advice, it’s extremely funny and extremely honest, giving you a candid and real look at what the life of being a writer entails.
There are lots of quotable pieces from the book and it was so good I just had to buy a copy of it to keep on hand. One particular topic Anne touches on is perfectionism and how it stifles creativity.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
As a self-confessed perfectionist, this really opened my eyes. After reading Anne’s book, I realized that I had let perfectionism rule me and my writing for too long. Of course, you want your story to be polished to be the best it can be but it will never be “perfect.”
If you obsess over making things perfect, you’ll drive yourself crazy and you won’t get very far. As Anne says, there are other people more concerned with having fun and taking risks than stressing over things and staying stuck to one spot. If you just go for it and realize that mistakes are inevitable, you’l learn more in the long run. I know I learned more approaching NaNoWriMo this way.
I wrapped up my NaNoWriMo novel on January 11th and decided to put it to rest for six weeks. Until then, I’ll be letting the novel sit while I work on other projects. Once the six weeks are up, I’ll revisit my novel and start editing it for a second draft (ideally). Was I scared and doubtful about my novel? Yep. Did I have fun writing it though? Yep. Did I do better in 2015 than other years by just forging ahead, despite my fear? I sure did.
It may not be perfect, it may not even be very good but I finished it. I got a lot farther than I thought I ever could. Perfectionism can be a big obstacle to our writing if we let it be. I believe that the year I won NaNoWriMo was the year that I finally let go of my perfectionism. I think the imperfections make us more interesting anyway.