Positives of Perfectionism in Writing

NaNoWriMo hath been slain, for lo, I did complete 50,000 words in a month.

But I have a confession. I deleted words. A lot. And I edited. Two sins against the whole purpose of NaNoWriMo, which is to get words onto the page as quickly as possible, regardless of how terrible they are. Because you can fix them later. You can sift back through 50,000 words featuring a weak protagonist, and then fix it later. Fix every. Single. Scene.

Or you could just take quick stock of your work, realize that deleting and/or fixing something for an hour now could save countless hours of frustration later, and use the dang delete button.

Perfectionist? Oh yes, definitely guilty here, and I admit to the downsides freely. But sometimes perfectionism has advantages. Sometimes a little hypersensitivity to flaws now can fix something that’s slightly crooked before it goes all the way crooked, and ends up being a far bigger mess. And you absolutely want a perfectionist editing your work.


And so, in the aftermath of NaNoWriMo, here is a shout-out to all of the perks of writing perfectionism.

1.) Sensitivity to Flaws – perfectionism, properly handled, is an asset when looking at work. Having some perfectionism makes you a better self-editor, because you’ll have no problem accepting that your writing is flawed. And properly funneled within trusting relationships, perfectionism can also lead to being very accepting of criticism and critiques.

2.) Tightly-Written First Drafts – no insult to pantsers or those who like writing many drafts. But a long drafting process isn’t and shouldn’t be a rule. There is no shame in taking more time, writing with care, and producing a tight first draft. And sometimes, as mentioned before, a little care even from someone with a pantser background can really help nip problem spots in the bud.

3.) Quality Work – right now the mantra is “write quickly and be prolific.” Having a solid back list of novels, short stories, or even blog content is seen as beneficial, because it establishes someone as reputable through sheer quantity (after all, it’s not like Amazon.com lets you publish for free or anything). However, being prolific can also signal work that, while not always bad, isn’t of lasting quality. Is this always the case? Of course not. And certainly many literary classics have flaws and were quickly written. But as long as the work does get finished, there is something to be said for spending extra time on the details. After all, a long back list doesn’t guarantee a following or instant fans any more than a lone book or two does.

4.) High Expectations -perfectionism as its best is aiming high, dreaming big, and accomplishing to the peak of ability. It isn’t settling for good enough for right now, or filling space to sell ads or brands. It involves taking a close look at yourself, your goals, and your abilities, and then giving concentrated effort on achieving them. Because what you are working on is important and has value, so give it your best shot.

Agree? Disagree? I welcome thoughts and comments!


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