Writing and Perfectionism
Writing isn't a linear process but a recursive one -- and it hides a trap too
This is what the writing process looks like:
Planning > Drafting > Editing > Final version > Beer
Planning is when you tidy that messy room of your brain so you get clear on what to write. Drafting is when you get wild to produce a bad-looking draft. Editing is when you prune, add and move things around to turn the bad-looking draft into a good-looking one. Publishing is when you can finally relax and have a beer.
But that’s not how writing works in practice. Writing is not a linear process. It’s recursive. So it looks more like this:
Writers re-plan, re-draft and re-edit before they can have a beer.
Plus, there’s a hidden trap in the process. It’s called perfectionism. I’ve fallen into this trap 1,279 times.
When you get caught in it, you say to yourself things like, “Hmm, this piece is too long,” “Hmm, this piece is too short,” “Hmm, this sentence is ugly,” “Hmm, this can be more concise,” “Hmm, this is boring.”
“Hmm, I hate my life.”
The problem isn’t what you say to yourself. Saying “Hmm, this can be more concise” will help you revisit your text and improve it for clarity.
The problem is falling into a never-ending overthinking process that will delay your beer.
So how can you avoid the trap?
Start the process knowing you’ll never write the perfect piece simply because the perfect piece doesn’t exist.
Aim at good enough.
Do that because there will always be something to edit and the temptation to do it will forever be there — even after you publish. Step out of that loop. The beer is getting warm!
No, you don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your writing. But you also don’t need to chase what you’ll never be able to catch either.
Good enough is enough. And it’s way more achievable.