The tyranny of perfection and the blocked writer

If I need this blog post to be perfect, I’ll never get it done.

I prefer the “It can’t be awful” standard over “It must be perfect.” This feels more humane to me and allows for greater freedom and creativity, though maybe I’m aiming too low.

It is important for a writer to have an internal editing function that evaluates whether the words on the page communicate effectively. The greater permanence of the written word naturally leads you to consider and scrutinize your written symbols with an different intensity than is applied to most verbal communications, which normally disappear politely with the wind.

I experience the internal editing function as a complex system of judgments, impulses and decisions that concern multiple aspects of the writing project. It’s amazing that we can do this, really, and these capabilities are essential in order for us to write at all. But when one of your inner editors becomes too loud, harsh, critical, insulting, deprecating or fear-inducing, you end up spending more and more time evaluating and cogitating, and less time producing words. At the extreme, the result is to lock down the writing process entirely.

I often see this problem with writers who apply intense, microscopic scrutiny to their words even during writing of first drafts. There is an inability to allow their initial, roughly hewn sentences to exist without trying to perfect them right off the bat. It is very hard to simultaneously generate ideas, write them down, and do final editing at the same time. It slows the writing process considerably, exhausts intracranial resources and leads to cognitive overwhelm, a distaste for the writing process and work avoidance.

If your psyche is inhabited by a ferocious, perfectionistic, inner editor, see if you can train the beast to hold off on all the advice-giving until you’ve had the opportunity to let your ideas flow onto the page and develop a bit first. The obsessive talents of the tyrannical perfectionist are very useful during the final draft editing stage of the project, but can devour your desire and energy for writing if allowed to run amok too soon.

Lighten up!

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About David Arnot Rasch

Author, psychologist, speaker, workshop leader
This entry was posted in The Blocked Writer's Book of the Dead, Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The tyranny of perfection and the blocked writer

  1. ixchel leigh says:

    What big teeth you have Rex!!!… The tyrannical inner editor!

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