August 8, 2011

A while back, on the Written Adventure blog, which I used to run for college and is now defuncted, I wrote a post on why perfectionism in writing, or anything for that matter, is not good. It is available somewhere on Tumblr. They were going to be moved over here, unfortunately I could not load any of my old posts from either of the previous platforms. Also, it might be good to write up a new post about it, before I head off on a trip, which I'm uncertain as to whether or not I will upload or create any posts. Today, we will talk about Perfectism.

In today's society, we have two kinds of people that aspire to be writers. We have those that just publish and sell stories that have not been either proofread or edited. There are also those that that take time to edit the stories. Out that group, there are two further divisions, which are the following:

  • moderate
    those who edit and proofread works until there is an acceptable amount of errors.
  • perfectionist
    those who attempt to proofread and edit their work until absolutely no errors exist.

For the purpose of this post, we will be focusing on the latter.

Many of the people I have encountered about editing are really gun-ho in support of it. It is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, I do agree that stories should be edited and/or proofread. However, what most people do not understand is that we are all inherently flawed beings. Not one of us is perfect, otherwise we would not be human. As a result of that fact, everything that we create has flaws. The perfectionist will probably never truly acknowledge this fact. Everything created by man is flawed.

In order to back up my claim, let us create an imagined scenario, where we have an aspiring writer named John. John is a perfectionist in everything he does in his daily life. At this point in time, he finished writing a story and gets it edited. After it has been edited, John finds some more mistakes and has it edited again. He gets it back and the process repeats over into infinity. The scenario ends there and John never saw his book published.

Now, editing one's writing over and over is not an uncommon task in the field of writing, but a line needs to be drawn that says the work has been edited enough. Yes, an agent can probably make that distinction, but the traditional publishing model does not work for everyone, especially when those who prefer DRM-free ebooks for their work get denied that request by their publisher, which probably has happened, but I'm not not certain about it, since publishers usually agree to that request, from what I have read. Some people do not even submit the title to agents until they are satisfied anyway. According to our scenario, John never did get published because the editing process went over to infinity, since he was never satisfied. That is the fatal flaw of a perfectionist. They never draw that line that says it is enough.

How can this be overcome? I tend to have a somewhat perfectionist mentality in my writing, when it comes to editing. The one thing that has helped was the fact that after I make my second or third draft, from the feedback my proofreader gives me, and send it off, I tell the proofreader to let me know that the story is ready for publication. There are some things here and there that both my proofreader and I miss, and I do not notice until I get the proof copy or later, but I just let the errors go, as they are mostly likely minor errors anyway. This blog is not perfect in anyway either.

What is your opinion on this subject? Feel free to comment.

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