Aug 04 2008

How to Beat Writer’s Block: Give Up on Perfection

Published by at 10:00 am under Writer's Block,Writing Articles

Expecting perfection from the first draft will probably paralyze you. On the first draft, the most important thing is to write something and then you can turn it into a coherent, clean masterpiece later. When you’re writing the first draft, it may help to think of your job as giving your internal self-editor material to work with rather than writing a story fit for public consumption.

Here are a few suggestions to avoid perfectionist impulses during the first draft…

1) Don’t edit.

2) If you get stuck on what happens in one part of the story, summarize it in a few sentences and move on. You can fill it in later.

3) Commit yourself to writing for at least 30 or 45 minutes. After ten minutes of accomplishing little, you will hopefully start to feel frustrated and lower your expectations. “Maybe this line is good enough.”

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “How to Beat Writer’s Block: Give Up on Perfection”

  1. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 06 Feb 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I’m a perfectionist in every sense of the word. I do heavy editing, cutting, pasting and I even rewrite or delete entire chapters. What I often do is leave myself a little note, like this:

    (NTS: Remember, Isaac’s school uniforms are black pants, black, red or pleated skirt, white shirt, black tie, red jumper, black blazer, black shoes)

    That way I can make sure I describe their uniforms right. I researched private schools to make sure that their uniforms were different to my idea, and there’s only one similar. I’m changing mine a bit.

    I also use Google Maps and Earth to make sure that I describe the layout of the city correctly. For example, if Isaac wanted to get from Murray Street to St Georges Terrace, he’d go down King Street. If he wanted to get from Wellington Street to Murray street without being seen, Princes Lane is the best bet. For me, research is half the work. I’m trying to think of a way to incorporate the museum into it, because it’s always fascinated me and given me the creeps. I think it would make a good meeting place for people with shady business.

  2. Ragged Boyon 06 Feb 2009 at 4:50 pm

    That’s the exact reason I decided not to use a real city with real streets and real landmarks. I hate researching things. I’m in no way a perfectionist, I’m disorganized and very prone to settling for the minimum, except when it comes to drawing.

    Has your perfectionism hindered your work?

  3. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 07 Feb 2009 at 2:38 am

    I find it easier to use a real city, because if I didn’t I could contradict myself. If I said that there was a bridge joining the suburbs of Rainbowville and Cookieland then later decided it had to join Cookieland to Fairyfloss Lane, I wouldn’t be making sense.

    Has perfectionism hindered my work? Is the Pope Catholic? Haha. Yes, it’s always been a downside for me. If a sentence isn’t quite right, I’ll sit and stare at it for ages to find a way to edit it. I even edit each comment I make here to ensure that I sound like an eloquent young lady. Haha.

    I mean the girls wear skirts. At my school the guys wear pants (but they wear shorts in summer) and the girls wear blouses and knee length pleated skirts (but in summer we wear dresses). I hate our uniform, so I tried to make Isaac’s one more appealing.

    I don’t use much Aussie speech. Sure, I call a barbecue a barbie and a shrimp a prawn, but I don’t say “G’day mate, havin’ a bloody brilliant arvo?” I say “Hey, has your afternoon been nice?” Haha.

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