Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Perfection Syndrome

by Connie S. Hall

Did you know perfection can and will destroy you as a writer? When I start typing, the words on my computer screen rarely measure up to what is floating around in my head. Sometimes the gap is so enormous I give up writing for days. Other times, everything I write sounds like garbage and I feel like quitting.

Don’t quit! It's important to get the words from your head onto the screen. Remember you can fix what you write. Your first draft will not be perfect, but you have to plunge on and continue to write. Once you realize you have Perfection Syndrome decide you can beat it. Outline and plan your writing as long as you want, but at some point every day, you must write. As you sit to write, say to yourself, “no one will ever see this” then begin typing away.

Notice how you feel each day before you start writing and how you feel when you finish. You’ll feel better when you finish your writing than you did before you started. Set a target number of words that you’ll write each day. Some people say to write the entire story and then do the re-write. It doesn’t work for me–it’s not my style.

Your computer has many tools to help you as you write. Be sure to use the spelling and grammar checker and the thesaurus. Many times, I use them to check what the reading ease or grade level shows. I can increase the reading ease of my story by restructuring the sentences I write and the grade level by using the thesaurus to find words that are more difficult. It can actually be fun restructuring sentences. Find a sentence in your next story and see how many different ways you can write it. It’s good practice and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Since I love perfection, I also set aside time every day to make the things I write more readable. Sometimes I have an overwhelming urge to check my story sentence by sentence. Be careful you don’t catch Perfection Syndrome. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for excellence.


Anonymous said...

I think we all suffer from perfection syndrome at one point or another. I love your last line about striving for excellence. That is the best advice.

Anonymous said...

How do you check the grade level of what you're writing?

Connie Hall said...

When I write I use the microsoft word program - On my tool bar I have a spelling and grammar check which shows me the readability statistics such as Flesch-Kincaid grade level, reading ease, and passive sentences. I depend on it to help me along.