Sorry, but you can’t be a perfectionist AND an author.

So…you want to write a book. But you’re a perfectionist.

I hate to break the news to you, but you’ve got to throw one of those out the window. (*whispers* May I suggest the perfectionism?) Many authors try to be perfectionists — I once considered myself one, too — but I’m here to pop that bubble, sit you down, and tell you it can’t be done.

Not just that, but you need to stop trying.

Now I know my advice is going against everything you probably hear like, “You can be whatever you set your heart on to be!” and “try, try again” and “get back on that horse/bike/pogo-stick” but…whoever invented those quotes definitely didn’t have perfectionists in mind. (You can throw the quotes out the window, too.)

Listen to Nadine. 😛

There is no attainable perfect.

A couple weeks, I touched on how perfectionism can often cause you to hate your story. And many of you requested a full post on the thing. There might be some repeated thoughts in this post, but maybe that’ll help get them stuck in your head. 😉

If you’re striving for “perfect” you have to ask yourself…whose version of perfect? Perfect to your reader? Perfect to yourself? Perfect to your editor?

Well, every reader is going to have something they like and something they hate, every editor is going to have suggestions, and every time you read your story…you’ll see something you could tweak.

This is because there is no perfect that is attainable by us.

Only God is perfect. To strive for perfection is not biblical. *cue knife to the heart* 😉

Writing is an ever-growing craft.

The life of an author is a life of constant growth. With every book you read or write, you will learn something new. With every conference you attend, you will learn something new.

Just like with many creative pursuits in our life, we will never. fully. get. there. We will never know it all, so why would you strive for perfection in a constantly changing market and a constantly growing craft?

perfectionism perfectionist author

The dangers of perfectionism:

You will never be pleased with your story. Because it will never be perfect. And that will make it so much harder to move on.

You have a hard time handling criticism. Because instead of applying it to future books and to growing as an author, you will view it as an imperfection on your current story.

You can strive for your best, but you need to understand that your best can never be perfect. A year from now, you will be a better writer and more knowledgeable writer than you are now. You’ll see flaws in your writing, but you need to be able to move onto other projects.

So…how do we overcome this?

Well…what are we commanded to do?

 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” — Luke 10:27

If God is your master, and your main focus, and you are writing for Him…He asks for your best. To “love” Him with all your heart is also to be obedient to Him, and to write with 100% of your effort to the best of your ability.

This doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a perfect story.

This means you need to be a good steward of your time, you need to write with prayer, you need to seek His guidance, you need to educate yourself in the craft of writing, and you need to commit the process and the finished product to Him.

Sometimes this means having a finished manuscript that you would normally be dissatisfied with. But…if you’re writing it for God–to please Him and obey Him–then He will be your satisfaction. Does that make sense? Be satisfied in Him, not in your writing. Because Christ will always satisfy you. Your writing will not.

When you know you’ve done your best for Him, you will be satisfied with your story. It all comes down to what is first. God or the product? Because there will be moments when your writing isn’t the best you can get it, but you still did the best you could do. If that doesn’t make sense, here’s an example:

DEADLINES.

 

Before you have a book contract, you have all the time you want to work on your manuscript. You can take breaks, you can wait for the inspiration, you can pray for years and really hone that story, etc. But when you are under a deadline, you might find yourself turning in your second draft, knowing it’s full of holes.

Because you have to.

Because you signed a contract that you would meet a deadline.

And most of the time, a publisher would rather publish your book on time than publish a slightly better book late.

This happened to me a bit with A Time to Rise–the third book in my trilogy. I had taken three years to write book 1, then–due to being under contract–I had 8 months to write book 2 and 6 months for book 3.

a time to rise perfectionist authorBook three just wasn’t coming together. The writing was slow, the ending was a huge mess, and no matter how often I prayed and committed it to God I heard nothing in response. I was so far from inspiration.

The deadline arrived and I had to turn it in.

In my mind, A Time to Rise could have come out great if I’d had two years to write it and “perfect” it. But I didn’t have two years. I had six months and, when I turned it in, I wasn’t at all pleased with it. But I’d done my best

And that was what God asked of me.

So as release day approached, I prayed like nobody’s business. And God did what God does best: He let the message and story shine through instead of all the weaknesses.

I still don’t know how. I still think about the weaknesses, but God is the one who got me the contract and the tight deadline in the first place. In fact, He’s the one who gave me the story. And the feedback that I’ve received from readers has blown me away. They see things in the story that I didn’t originally intend, but God wove through.

On this side of things, there is nothing to worry about. Sure, I can think of scenes I wish I’d added or changed…but God’s taught me to be content in Him. I’ve seen that He is my reward.

Writing is just a bonus.


 

Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?

What do you think? Is there a place for perfectionism in writing?

 



.
.
.

About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
Bookmark the permalink.

6 Comments

  1. Definitely a recovering perfectionist here. 😛 I told some friends recently that sometimes I resent growth, because it means I look back and see all the problems and mistakes in what I used to do – and that makes me realize that 10 years down the road I will turn around and finally see the mistakes I’m making NOW, and knowing that will happen in the future stresses me out. *facepalm* I’m trying really hard to turn around that kind of thinking, to accept and appreciate that life IS continual growth and doing the best you can with what you have. Usually I’m pretty good about forgiving my past self…I need to give my current self more grace too. 😉

    • I’ll be praying for you with this! It’s SO HARD to change that mindset, but anything is possible with God, right? 🙂 Maybe you need a #GIPjoy (growth-in-progress joy) hashtag alongside the #WIPJoy one! 😉

  2. LOVE this post; particularly the Christian perspective. Perfectionism has nearly destroyed my entire writing career before it could even begin, on more than one occasion. I’m not exaggerating. The book I recently published is one I decided I hated and shoved away in a dark corner of my Dropbox, never to see the light of day again. I then spent months struggling to write an “improved” version. After a while, I realized that I could keep doing that forever, and chose to polish up the original draft and just put it out there. To my surprise, the response has been very positive overall. The point is, though, that I’m grateful to God for putting it on my heart to stop “fixing” the book, because otherwise I might never have gotten anything published, ever.

    • Wow, I’m so glad you finally got the strength and courage to put it out there! That, I think, is one of the hardest steps (especially as a perfectionist) because you’re forced to accept that others are reading it. And now God can finally USE it! Hurray!

      Thank you for sharing part of your story. What an encouragement to read.

  3. Thank you, Nadine! This was just what I needed to read. 🙂 I had a deadline a few weeks back for an ‘interested’ publisher. I’d just received a critique from a beta reader pointing out MAJOR plot holes. :/ I had no choice but to turn in the draft I had! But I chose to just leave it in God’s hands and hope that if the publisher likes it, we will take care of things in the editing process! We shall see!! It was so encouraging to hear these words, though. Thanks!

  4. Pingback: How to survive a deadline - Nadine Brandes

I love hearing from you!