Just a few days ago, Sarah Duncan wrote a very wise blog post about the perils of perfectionism. It really struck home to me.
In most of my life, I’m very much of the ‘good enough’ persuasion. One of my never-to-be-forgotten school reports actually said ‘Jennifer is too easily satisfied’. In the day job, I always did the best I could to cover as much as I could, in the time available, and felt fine that I couldn’t do everything. At home, I can never cook a dish the same way twice because I always end up tweaking the taste at the last moment. And I don’t have a conscience about that either.
But in my writing, I’m the reverse. A friend of mine says I’m a prize tiffler. Her view is that I hang on to books, changing a phrase here, a bit of dialogue there, for months after I should have seen they were ready and let them go.
Even when I get my authors’ copies and start to re-read, I’ll find things I’d really like to change and reach for a pencil. I utterly sympathised with John Fowles when he had a second go at THE MAGUS ten years after its first (highly successful) publication. Though I have to admit that I preferred the first version – which should have taught me something, I suppose.
One thing I have learned from my own horrible habit is that being picky picky can pummel the life out of a story – and the perfectionist has no one to blame but himself.
So, after reading Sarah Duncan’s wise words, I promised myself that I would do only one rough draft, one clean draft. And, as it happens, I had an idea which had been coughing gently to be let out since – well, since I met a few writer friends for lunch last month, actually.
So – I did it. Well, I admit it was more like three rough drafts. But for a woman who has got up into the thirties in the past, you have to agree, that is a big step forward. Admittedly it was a longish short story, not a whole novel. But the thing is I did it and I’ve put it up here.
Thank you, Sarah.
Now all I have to do is resist the temptation to open the Edit Function every day and tweak a bit more . . .