Writing a book is a prolonged exercise in perfectionism. One must strive for quality while resisting the urge to make it perfect. Why? Because perfection, which is highly subjective in this case, falls somewhere between unlikely and impossible to achieve. And perfectionism can lead to procrastination, writer’s block, stress, and the inability to finish one’s manuscript. Ugh!
If you don’t consider yourself to be a writer, perfectionism can prevent you from even trying to tell your story. My advice for you is to consider it a first draft that you never have to show anyone if you don’t want to. Even “real writers” start with a first draft! It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be a good start.
I’ve finally completed the writing stage (including many rounds of self-editing) and am in the midst of the exciting (and scary) real-editor-editing stage of my forthcoming new book, What’s a Photo Without the Story? How to Create Your Family Legacy. It’s all coming together; and only a year later than planned!
I’m not a perfectionist, I don’t think. Not when it comes to most things. I believe that good enough really is good enough, with notable exceptions such as brain surgery and air traffic control. See: Confessions of a Professional Organizer (I’m organized enough, and not one bit more)
But I can certainly relate to perfectionistic writers!
In what ways am I concerned my book won’t be perfect?
And what’s the worst that could happen if it’s not?
Here are some examples:
What if I there’s a typo, or a grammatical error?
I’m going to have my book proofread by someone other than myself, of course. But I’ve found typos in books that surely also had been proofread before they went to press, so will it be perfect? Probably not. As for grammar, I have encountered many points that experts were still debating amongst themselves. So, whatever choices I’ve made (even if have been advised to make them) will still be subject to scrutiny by smarty pants readers. I’ll just do my best. My best will have to be good enough.
What if my writing isn’t clear, or my tips motivational?
Everyone has a different vocabulary, thought process, and frame of reference. So, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t understand, or who prefers someone else’s explanation of the same concepts. That’s what this blog post is about: Those Magic Little Words (that help you get organized). And there might be some ideas that people will disagree with me about, or advice that doesn’t help with their specific situation. That just comes with the territory. Meanwhile, though, readers have reportedly been motivated by my blog posts for years, so why wouldn’t they appreciate my book as well?
What if all my concepts are not original and unique?
Ha! Well, some of them are, I think. But I learned a long time ago that just because someone else has written about a topic, doesn’t mean I can’t write about it too. How many blog posts have I read (and written) about various aspects of organizing and genealogy? It’s easy to hesitate, remembering that someone else is more experienced, or a better writer, or more well-known. But my readers want to know what I have to say about it. Right? This is what I tell myself, but the reason I’m saying it here is to encourage you to connect with your readers! This is for the many writers I know, and also for those of you who are not “real writers”, but who I hope will become encouraged by my book to tell the stories of your family, photos, and things.
What if I missed something?
Like what? I don’t know. I won’t know I’ve missed it until it’s too late! If somebody asks me about a resource, or tool, or technique I didn’t include I will say, “Yes, that’s a great idea too!” Or, “That was beyond the scope of this book, but maybe I’ll write another one!” In fact, while I was writing, I kept telling myself: “Yes, you know more about this topic. And some people will want to know more. Those people will have the wherewithal to find out more. Others will be overwhelmed if you just keep going on and on about it in this book. Stop. Keep it simple. It’s not an encyclopedia.”
What if, what if, what if…..?
As I remind myself regularly: It’s really not what if something happens; it’s what will I do when it happens? And that’s what this blog post is about: Always Believe in Yourself (Are you trusting your own wings? Or are you just hoping the branch won’t break?)
If you are a perfectionist, consider whether you are merely trying to get it right, or if you are afraid to get it wrong and worried that it won’t be perfect. To the extent that you are worried, remember that worrying is just a form of mental clutter. (See: What are you worried about? Don’t worry – Take action! and Clearing Mental Clutter.)
Here are some of my other blog posts that have touched on perfectionism:
- The Procrastitivity Zone
- The 80/20 Rule is Your Friend
- Are You Getting to Good Enough? <– This is about a podcast I highly recommend!
- Why Am I Organized and You Aren’t?
- All I Really Need to Know About Organizing I Learned in Yoga
- Plan, Don’t Procrastinate (Read This Now!)
- Do I Practice What I Preach? (habits, maintenance, and backsliding)
Are you a perfectionistic writer?
Is perfectionism holding you back?
What tips can you share with us (in the comments) for letting go of perfectionism?
Copyright 2021 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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