Perfection: Is It Crucial?

You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page. — Jodi Picoult

Today I feel the need to talk about perfection. This can be the presentation of your notes, planning and outlining, or writing the first draft of your story.

Being quite the perfectionist myself, I get extremely dissatisfied when even the plan for my plan is looking messy, so I end up spending countless hours redoing everything to look neat, clear, organized. Perfect. And then I change it up again. It just seems impossible to have a perfect set up.

I’m sure there are many more people like me out there in the world who get kind of obsessive about organization and perfecting everything, even if it’s not supposed to be perfect (like a first draft). Certainly, in some situations, perfect (or as perfect as can be) organization is necessary and beneficial to the task. Which then, by all means, knock yourselves out redoing the same pages over and over again.

However, I’ve found that when it’s in relation to writing a book – from its first stages to possibly the last- it can never really be perfect. Because changes and developments in ideas (for scenes, dialogue, characters etc.) can occur so easily every time you revisit your work. It’s natural. You can’t plan for it.

So to redo every piece of work you’ve done, whenever you change your mind, to make it neat and presentable, seems like a crazy waste of time. It’s precious time you could be using to actually write something new down.

It’s a hard bullet to bite for a perfectionist like me, but leave your notes messy and just get your first draft down. Just get it all down. Tidying it up and “perfecting” it can come later. Way later.

In regards to organization, I’ve been alternating between, shall I use a notebook or those little revision cards, or do I have to be modern and use a laptop? I guess each could be useful for different stages of writing. For instance, notebook for initial outlining, cards for character profiles or scene lists, and laptop for the actual writing. But then, wouldn’t a laptop just suffice for all of those tasks?

It’s true that everyone has different ways to organize their work to maximize their productivity and creativity, and what works for one writer won’t necessarily work for another. I guess one of the hard parts to overcome as a first time writer (or even second or third) is figuring out what works for you.

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