“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.” – Anne Lamott
I was lucky enough to meet Anne Lamott a while back when she was an author for the AVID event here in Des Moines. AVID is Authors Visiting in Des Moines and is a program that the local library funds each year. They bring in a handful of authors who speak and sign books from April through June. It’s an event I look forward to each year and try to attend as many talks as possible.
Anyone who writes has heard of Anne Lamott and her ‘Bird by Bird’ book on writing. If you have not, you need to get it and read it now. She is one of the writing guru’s I turned to in the beginning. The title came from when her brother attempted to write an essay on different birds. He waited until the last minute to write it and then found himself stuck not knowing how to actually do it. His father told him to not look at the big picture, to take one bird and write about it and then another and another until he completed the report.
I suffer from perfectionism in many areas of my life but especially in my writing. I use it as my crutch or my excuse. If I only have 10-15 minutes to write, it’s easy for me to say it isn’t worth it, what can I possibly get done in that amount of time? Even when I do schedule my writing time, I often catch myself editing the life out of my work and ultimately stopping my forward momentum. Then I can’t figure out why I can’t go forward. Just as if I was a log stuck in quicksand, I get stuck trying to be perfect and instead of finishing the project, it sinks and is never seen again.
I have murdered too many projects because of perfectionism. Like another writer friend Shirley Damsgaard, who writes a witch mystery series as well as the Jess McConkey books told me, “Sometimes you just have to write the damn thing.”
I am so there now. I will spill the words out and worry about mopping up the bad stuff with revision.
As Nora Roberts said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” So I have to get past thinking my first draft has to be perfect.
Are you able to write that first draft and not worry about how bad it is or are you like me and tend to fix it as you go, never getting far from your beginning?
How do you cope with writing that first draft? What are your secrets?
Here’s to writing to the end this week, and not worrying about perfection.