Friday, September 12, 2014

On Being a Perfectionist Writer

by Henry McLaughlin @riverbendsagas

It's rough being a perfectionist in an imperfect world.
It’s rough being a perfectionist in an imperfect world. It’s a wonder we can make it through the day.

In a perfectionist’s world, every driver would operate their car exactly the way I want them to. (Ooops, ended a sentence with a preposition. Oh my!)

I cringe when a critique partner finds a sentence splice. Or spots a sentence dangling its participle for the entire world to see.
I missed a comma or put one where it doesn’t belong? Whatever made me think I could write?

My hero has blue eyes on page 3 and green eyes on page 150. It’s a historical novel so I can’t use the contact lens excuse.

Do you freeze at the thought of submitting your
writing for critique?
When I first started writing, I froze at the thought of submitting my work to a critique group. The Apprentice course at Christian Writers Guild had me more jittery than a gallon of coffee. And I was paying for them to criticize me!

And we all know the deadly side effect of perfectionism—procrastination. At times, this means I won’t start because conditions are not ideal.

Or I won’t start chapter two because chapter one isn’t perfect. But I don’t touch chapter one because I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong with it.

Or I won’t submit my manuscript until it’s perfect. Well, it’s never perfect enough. So it dies the slow death of constant tinkering.

Wisdom is knowing that perfect just isn't possible.
I know of writers—writers with talent—who left critique groups because of criticism. They took the criticism to mean their writing wasn’t perfect. Therefore, they weren’t perfect.

Now, through taking risks, I know perfection is unattainable in this world. Especially in my writing. And that is okay. Perfection comes when I get to heaven.

Although, I still think other drivers should operate the way I want them to.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How do you overcome it?

Don't forget to join the conversation!

Author Henry McLaughlin, @riverbendsagas shares tips for perfectionists #writers on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Struggling with writing perfectionism? Henry McLaughlin, @riverbendsagas has tips to help on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. He serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers. Connect with Henry on his blog, Twitter and Facebook.


  1. I never thought of perfectionism and procrastination going hand in hand. That helps me. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I'm glad my post is helpful.

  2. Henry, what a timely blog when I'm finishing up a novel. So true!

  3. Great post, especially for all of us perfectionists who definitely tend to procrastinate! I always think of perfection vs excellence. While perfection on this earth is impossible, we can strive to be excellent, which simply means doing the best we can with what we have.

    1. Great observation, Andrea. Thank you.

  4. I still haven't figured out how to deal with perfectionism in writing, though it's been a problem for years. It's a day-to-day struggle and the same method, trick, tool, or tip doesn't work everyday.

    1. The best attitude I learned--and it was a hard lesson to learn--is to give myself permission to write junk, to get a first draft out and than revise it to be the best I can make it, with His help.

  5. Breakthrough! I have never related procrastination with perfectionism. My whole life makes sense now. Thank you! :)

    1. Your welcome. It took me a while to figure out the connection. Still struggle with it sometimes but I'm making progress.