I’ve been a closet fiction writer for years. So closeted that I never considered myself a “real” writer even though the title is all over my website and marketing materials. To be fair, I’ve written a lot…Just look at this blog. But I have a lot of unfinished fiction work. Scribbled Ideas in countless notebooks. Short scripts that may or may not ever see the light of day. What has held me back all this time?
Well a combination of factors. Primarily trying to survive and find balance in my life as a freelancer, entrepreneur, actor, fitness coach etc. This balancing act of time, money, and resources is what is known as “the struggle“.
But most notoriously it has been self-doubt and perfectionism. The idea that my work has to be Stephen King-level to ever leave my laptop.
The notion that all of my ideas have to be earth-shattering or groundbreaking to have value. The lie that even though I’ve studied the craft of writing for years, I need more time to study and this will somehow grant me the magical ability to write perfectly, without failure, every time I put my fingers to the keys.
That’s what creative perfectionism really is. The fear of failure, Sugar-coated to look like a positive attribute.
Many people brag about being a perfectionist. I guess on some level it’s okay, like if you’re organizing a desk. Perfectionism is great for any task that has a clear objective, and you have the means to achieve that objective “just right” without flaws. Things like calculating figures, doing some type of clerical work etc. Being a perfectionist is great here.
But for creative work, perfectionism oftentimes instills the fear that if you produce work that is somehow not on par with the best in the world; If one person says it sucks, let alone hundreds, then you would have to go into exile and never touch a keyboard again.
Perfectionism to the creative person is him/her trying to reach an ideal that only exists in their mind. And usually that ideal is of some masterpiece of art that the particular individual may not be able to produce right then, because master-level creativity is often trial and error, and the idea of perfection doesn’t leave a lot of room for either of those. You’re more likely to scrap your work than ever show the world.
This idea of perfect creative work totally negates the realities of success, what I would call the laws of succeeding in anything, especially writing. These include:
1. Practice makes perfect – and not just practicing in your room to yourself, but getting your work out and practicing the act of taking critiques, getting feedback and dealing with people who love your work and those who…love it less.
2. Failure is a part of success – No one just comes out of the womb a perfect creative specimen. Yes there are prodigies (not you…or me), but even Stephen King got dozens of rejection letters before he hit his stride.
indie-author Susan Kaye Quinn wrote:
Failure is what happens when you’re trying, and success is what happens when you try again.
That is the indivisible nature of failure and success.They are forever intertwined. You cannot experience one without the other.
3. You need not seek approval -It really doesn’t serve you to try to please others. Yes you want people to like your stories,(that’s the whole point right?) but for every 100 who don’t like it, there’s 200 more that will.
Just look at the internet. I know there’s something out there, some intellectual property, creative work, or trend, that has a huge following but you think it’s stupid. When you are your authentic self, the universe aligns to bring you success. And the internet, well, it’s full of people who think like you do, you just have to find them.
4. Don’t wait for the gatekeeper – This is a big one. In today’s technological world, there’s no need to think traditionally when it comes to producing and distributing your work. In the past, I spent so much time thinking about making the perfect story to submit to literary agents and publishing houses, or selling that one career-making script, that I wasn’t doing what it takes to get to that level. Writing more.
In today’s world you can self-publish and have the gatekeepers come to you…or not. There are hundreds of people with thriving careers built on being independent. Self Publishers and independent producers.
I picked up on this Idea over a year ago after listening to Luis Samways’ The Evil Indie Author: How I Made a Trillion Dollars on Kindle, Blah Blah Blah (great listen for anyone wanting to get into self-publishing, a little crass but honest and practical) and I wanted to run with it, but alas, the struggle.
At the first of the year 2017 I set a goal, that by the end of May 2017 I would self publish a book.
I got to work, writing short outlines for the 8 or so Ideas I constantly have circling in my mind and then I picked the one I was excited about but not 100% attached too. One I really liked, but I didn’t mind potentially crashing and burning with. Thus was born the Dead Man Chronicles.
I set a deadline to start writing (Feb 5, 2017) and to finish (April 15th, 2017). I stuck to these deadlines, thereby not giving my mind time enough to really start to doubt or to let the voice of perfectionism stop me from just getting through to the end.
With my work as a Kickboxing instructor, and my attempt to also have a life, I had to be very disciplined and consistent with my efforts, writing an average of 5x a week for lengths as short as 20 min. at times.
And here it is. My baby. It’s not perfect. But it’s finished.
It’s also not a rushed and thrown together mess. lol. When I say “not perfect” that just means it can always be improved. Everything always can, so there’s no use agonizing on reaching that lofty ideal.
Perfectionism is an inhibitor, but excellence is an achievable aspiration.
Excellence -the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.
So the book is professionally edited, properly formatted, etc. etc. I took my time with it. I’m a full month behind my original release schedule. But that’s because the process of story editing, getting artwork, getting beta readers, editing, formatting for paperback, kindle etc..took longer than expected.
I wanted to FINISH a work. With QUALITY. striving for excellence, not perfection.
It’s hard for a recovering perfectionist to put anything out to the world, but I’m putting out my creation, in all its imperfection, and hoping for the best. Available June 23!
Thank you so much for reading! Great things are on the horizon for you. Take care.
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Also published on Medium.