You Don’t Have to Be a Perfectionist to Write

If you are a new writer who rewrites your stories over and over because they aren’t good enough, you just might be a perfectionist. I’m not talking about a rewrite or two so you can fix spelling, grammatical, and structural errors. Those are necessary edits and you shouldn’t neglect them. But rewriting a story over and over because it doesn’t “feel” right or “sound” right will leave your story stilted and lifeless. And you’ll feel frustrated because there will always be something more to fix.

Writing should be enjoyable. It is work, but it shouldn’t feel like work. It’s a creative expression of yourself with your unique thoughts and way of looking at things. The problem is we have an inner voice that can drive out our creative thinking, leaving us doubting our abilities.

What does your inner voice say?

My writing is never good enough

You’ll do a lot of bad writing before you become good at it. There are no exceptions or shortcuts. That’s why producing a lot of new content is a new writer’s priority. Over time and having written dozens of stories, your writing will improve.

To become a skilled writer, devote yourself to writing every day. And while you write, don’t criticize your work. Your goal is to get through the bad writing to get to the good.

No matter what I do, my writing is boring

Most of the time, the act of writing is boring. But if you are creative and imaginative, what you write will interest your readers. If you believe they want to read what you’ve written, you’ll want to deliver value to them.

Being a perfectionist won’t make boring writing interesting. Rewriting a boring story over and over won’t create a great story either. If you want to be interesting, write your first draft as a stream of consciousness. Put down the words as fast as you can. Write with passion, but without self-criticism. Write to your readers as a friend, and your writing will interest them. Once you finish, go back and flesh out the story, add quotes or sources, fix grammar, style, and structure. After a couple of rewrites, your story will shine.

I don’t know if I should write long or short stories

People will say your story needs to be over 1000 words to get noticed. If it is shorter than 500 words, they’ll say it won’t gain traction with search engines because of its being too “light”. Neither is true. What matters to people is content. Deliver it and they’ll love it — even if the writing isn’t perfect.

Effective writing covers the topic. If the story is short and you try to embellish it to reach an imaginary number, you won’t have fun writing it, and it will be a tedious read. If you ramble on through thousands of words without cutting, it won’t be interesting and you’ll lose your reader. As long as you cover the topic, short or long length doesn’t matter.

Make it your goal to write great content and don’t worry about the length.

My story is too basic, and everyone knows it

Know your readers. Beginners want to read about how to get started, or how to develop a skill, or what to watch out for as they learn. Experienced readers want to expand on their skills, or they want to learn a new technique.

If you are a novice, it is fine to write to other beginners. But it would be an overreach to write to the pros, and they’ll know you aren’t at their level. This may seem self-evident, but knowing your limits and the limits of your readers will control your writing. So keep your stories appropriate for your readers’, and your own experience.

A woman walking into a forest. You Don’t Have to Be a Perfectionist to Write
A woman walking into a forest. You Don’t Have to Be a Perfectionist to Write
Image by Aravind kumar from Pixabay

My story isn’t just bad, it’s awful

Writing is a process. When you begin to write your stories will be rough but not awful. When you read what you’ve written, remind yourself that you are writing through the bad to get to the good. With each story, you learn a little more about how to write an interesting article. Your narrative skills will improve, but it takes a lot of practice.

Each of us is our own worst critic. As writers, we bare our souls for the world to see. We allow people a glance into our minds. And we shave off a slice of our lives for them to experience vicariously. It’s risky because we fear people will think what we’ve written is awful.

People appreciate writers who take the risk of rejection to help them. The writing may be rough, but your readers will read it, anyway. Be sure to give them value in return for their time.

I don’t know what I’m talking about.

You don’t have to be a perfectionist to write an informative story. If you don’t know enough about the topic, you can research it. Unless you are an expert in your field, when you make factual statements, quote your source.

If you don’t enjoy research, stick to topics you know. You can write stream-of-consciousness articles people will love to read. And you will write them faster and easier than stories that require a lot of research.

Being a perfectionist is frustrating and debilitating. Writing is a craft and an art. It takes a lot of writing to become a good wordsmith. Knowing how to write a sentence and a paragraph is the beginning of your skills. Turning a sentence by using interesting words, phrases and expressions take you from a technician to an artist. Learning to write, your inner voice will sit upon your shoulder and whisper to you. It will say you aren’t a talented writer, you’re boring, your story is too short or too long, your writing is too basic, it’s awful, and it’s full of untruths. Don’t listen.

You aren’t perfect. You are a writer.

Published in The Ascent, The Writing Cooperative, Illumination-curated, Writers’ Blokke.

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