One might think of creative writing as a gradual process of mastering an art. It’s essentially movement from scratch to perfection. But if you try to make a leap to perfection, chances are you might get a stumble. Many writers think for hours and hours about a smashing start for a piece, a story or play etc. And during all the hours they don’t write down a word. Then there are those who get distracted easily by signs of imperfection, both in and outside their writing.
By outside of writing, I mean the place and atmosphere in which one writes. Those working along the line of OCD would probably find it a distraction to write in an unusual place, time, or even a different ink color in the same passage, or font variation (assuming the traditional practice of writing on paper). Even failing to complete a certain amount of text originally aimed at would be a turn off for them.
The result of all these imperfections is obstruction in the flow of creative expression. Not all writers, however, are OCD-stricken to get caught in these distractions. Still many of my fellow writers are likely what would be called perfectionists. I believe some of them at least are very keen observers, owing to their oversensitivity to minor changes in their setting. Signs of imperfections turn them off readily. Hence the need to adapt to imperfections.
For the writing mechanics, here are a few tips on how to counter or desensitize one against perfectionism in favor of creative flow.
- A smashing opening is not the only or best thing in a story. It’s not the “success bone” of the story or any piece of creative writing. Building up interest and making your point via the narration of the story are the real thing. It is better to rewrite an opening to make it better than to sit on the opening waiting for the perfect one to come up. Also, it is usually easier to write an opening that matches the spirit of the rest of the story rather than writing a story that matches the spirit of a smashing opening.
- Writing the same item in more than one place and using different materials is a helpful practice. It keeps from conditioning one’s ambience within a narrow set of elements. Get yourself used to writing an item using more than one type of ink and paper. That helps next time you are traveling and lose or misplace your favorite pen or paper. Also practice writing in different places. True that some places will work better than others, but working in more than one or a few places helps you get more choices, which is good for the creative writer inside you.
- Some writers have trouble finishing a piece or moving it forward if they don’t write it down in the time and the manner they had expected. It’s rather difficult to get out of this mode of perfectionism as it is more grounded in the psyche/thinking than the physical surrounding. The best I can say about handling this kind of “calculative approach” is to remind yourself multiple times a day that failing to write in a timeframe is NOT a failure; it just requires the right moment and mood and that can happen anytime. Just let the muse set on its own time. The right moment is not always within the deadline.
Perfection is the peak of a long, gradual ascent. Leaping to it will not yield much good. The only way to master it is to adapt to the whole lot of imperfections lying in the way. Reworking and polishing your art takes you closer to perfection. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is perfection.