The Curse of Perfection

November marks NanoWrite, which is is when many writers try to write 50K in 30 days.  Nano, perhaps curiously, reminds me of the cooking competitions on Food Network.  They just finished up the Halloween Baking Championship and are about to start the Holiday Baking Championship.  There’s all the cake competitions too.

Particularly with the cake competitions, we sometimes get a cake decorator who proudly boasts up front that their standard is perfection.

Then they make contact with the timed challenge of the competition.

There’s no time to be perfect.

But some of them try to hang onto the perfection, and the time crunch pulls them apart.  They start making careless mistakes that put them behind.  Because they’re still focusing on perfection, they fall further and further behind, refusing to abandon part of piece that’s too complicated or try something else.

Others quickly toss out the perfection, but veer in another just as bad direction.  They go sloppy.  Their focus becomes laser focused on finishing, without regard to quality.

Suddenly they hear “One hour left” and it’s a mad rush to try to pull everything together.  Only it’s really too late to play catch up, and the piece either ends up a mess or on the floor.

Which sounds a lot like Nano.  The purpose is to drive out the perfectionist, because if you stop to perfect each sentence, you’ll never get 50K by the end of the month.   Yet, it’s hard for writers to let go of needing to be perfect and they end up not even getting close to their goals.  Or they write sloppy.   Imagine writing a story and leaving out all the punctuation.  Now imagine having to fix that during a revision.


Perfect is a curse, because it is anything but perfect.


2 thoughts on “The Curse of Perfection

  1. Harvey Stanbrough November 4, 2018 / 7:42 pm

    Great post. How much better things could be for those writers if they could learn that it is Hours In The Chair that turns out “more words,” not a scrambling for speed.

    And if they stay in the subconscious, creative voice (if they ever got there in the first place) and cycled back every thousand words or so they would easily attain their current level of “perfection.”

    i just realized, in four days and about 4 hours per day, I’ve churned out the first 13,111 words of my WIP. Just over 3277 words per day. At that lowly rate, in 30 days I could write a 98,310 word novel during NaNoWriMo.

    (BTW, 3277 words in 4 hour is only 819 words per hour, or a blistering pace of not quite 14 words per minute.) (grin)

    And they wouldn’t have to go back over it to revise.



  2. Robin Bangerter November 4, 2018 / 8:07 pm

    Hi Linda, That kind of perfection is a state of mind. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in themselves, they forget what makes (or made) them happy and or successful. I’ll bet even for the winners, it can be short lived.

    Sent from my iPhone



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