Letting Go of Perfectionism

Hi Writers,
I was sitting in an online workshop last week. Dozens of other magazine and book editors were present as well as much of upper management, including our CEO. And he made a statement that I’ve been thinking about ever since: when it comes to the Internet, we need to let go of our perfectionism.

Now I’ve always believed that perfectionism is ultimately frustrating, since it can really cripple creativity. But as the editor of a print magazine, perfectionism is always the goal, even if it’s never quite achieved. We hone and polish the magazine to a high shine, send it off to press with a wish and a prayer and cringe when the inevitable typo gets through. It’s an editor’s way to want the baby to be as perfect as possible. (By the way, there’s a wonderful essay on this topic in Salon: Let Us Now Praise Editors.)

But the Internet is fast and loose and free. More casual language rules and no one seems to care if you get lax with your commas or use a dash where there should have been a semi-colon. Perfectionism slows you down. And I have to admit that this is really appealing to the writer in me.

So this is a dichotomy for the writer, isn’t it? All writers are editors, in a sense. And letting go of perfectionism can be difficult.

Are you a perfectionist with your writing? And do you relax your standards when you write online?

As always, I’d love to hear from you, especially all of you busy writer/bloggers out there.

Yours in non-perfectionism.

Keep Writing,
Maria
 

 

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9 thoughts on “Letting Go of Perfectionism

  1. Julie Webb Kelley

    Kim is so right!! "I will never lower my standards for myself." That’s were writers need to be and need to stay. It doesn’t matter if we’re filling out a form for the doctor’s office or working on a novel — words, grammar and spelling are our tools!
    Well-said Kim.
    Julie

  2. Virginia Carroll

    Maria,

    You could not be more wrong. Writing, in my opinion, is very civilized (more so than spoken language) Letting go of grammar does not seem to me to be the right idea, in fact it seems backwards. I do not think that perfectionism is what prevents us from double checking every comma, but I do think it’s laziness that lets us be excited about lax grammar rules online.

    Ginny

    (Having said that, my blog is horrendous and I have no excuse for that…)

  3. kdg

    I completely agree with Kim Reynolds. I enjoy many blogs and appreciate that real-life people have easier opportunities to offer raw, unfiltered perspectives on what’s happening in the world. But sooner or later, when this initial free-for-all of blogs and "citizen journalism" starts to get to be too much to absorb, the average person will get sick of the cocophony of mediocrity. It’s the well-reasoned, well-edited, well-written and -presented work that will make its way to the top and have real impact. Don’t give up the fight for perfectionism, writers! Expect only the best of yourself.

  4. Tabitha

    While I write often in my blog.
    I don’t aim for perfection so
    much as clearity of my topic.
    Sometimes that is so darn hard
    when you know what you want to
    convey yet the words must be
    juggled to do so.I always look
    for a comfortable flow in my posts.
    To me if reads smoothly..that is
    good enough..and if it doesn’t,
    well then I know I am trying too
    hard to get it perfect.lol
    Tab

  5. Deborah Bouziden

    Thank goodness for this "Perspective". My mother’s favorite line when I was a child was "if you can’t do it right the first time, don’t do it at all." Everytime I sit down to write, I hear her over my shoulder. It has been difficult trying to silence her enough to write rough draft.
    When polishing however, I look for mistakes like a blood hound looking for lost clues. It’s maddening. I once rewrote a piece, trying to improve it, so many times my editor emailed and told me to, "Send it in. You’re killing it." Yikes!
    For years, I’ve written a blog and have always been self-conscious of it because I don’t have time to spend on rewriting and editing it like I should. Thank goodness for your words of encouragement.
    I will continue to do my best, but maybe I too, will loosen up a bit.

  6. Kim Reynolds

    I completely disagree. Non-writers can do as they please, I don’t nit pick e-mails or blogs, but I will never lower my standards for myself. Grammar and spelling are a writer’s tools; what craftsman abandons a hammer for a rock, what doctor replaces a scalpel with a butter knife.

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