Lie #3 I tell myself: "This draft has to be perfect now."
I lie to myself. Because writers can be liars.
We really must stop lying to ourselves. All we do is hurt the work when we lie. But lie, we do.
Here is a lie I tell myself.
“This draft has to be perfect now.”
Have you thought this heinous lie to yourself? I have.
The truth is, when we tell ourselves this lie, or other “writer” lies, we think we’re being honest.
What we might mean instead is this:
I feel like if this draft isn’t perfect right now, I’ll never be able to make it better.
I worry that I’m incapable of improving this work.
There are ways to combat these lies we tell ourselves. Instead, we can tell ourselves the truth.
Lie #3 I tell myself:
This draft has to be perfect now.”
Five Truths to help you un-lie to yourself.
1. Truth: Drafts are never perfect. Sorry, friend. If you’re writing a draft, it may well be amazing, stupendous, and fabulous. But it’s still a draft, and drafts are never perfect. No published writer has ever written a perfect draft. No one. Promise. Drafts should do one thing and one thing only. Exist. Drafts should be messy, need work, run into plot problems, not have characters not fully developed, have actions that don’t quite translate to readers, have “crutch words” that will need cutting. They should have these things. It’s a draft: the preliminary version of your work. Your first stab at your WIP. If it’s perfect, how can you make it better? Let go and let your draft be a draft. Let it do the only thing it needs to do: exist.
2. Truth: Good writing is mostly editing and revising. If you want to be a good writer, you need the truth: writing is mostly editing and revising. Drafting is the fun part because again, all it has to do is exist. But the writing process requires editing and revising. In fact, writing is about 15% drafting and 80% editing and revising. What’s the other 5%, you ask? Worrying (Read my Lie #1 blog post. You are good enough). With this in mind, don’t worry about editing and revising as you draft. You’re killing your drafting time when you do this and you’re making yourself switch “writer roles” too much. Your drafting self and your editor self as a writer cannot really be friends. Keep your editor self at bay and remember this: since you’re going to edit and revise later, there is no need to make your draft perfect. Let it go and just draft.
3. Truth: You might be stuck in your draft. When our editor self tries to take over while we’re drafting, and fix content that is already written, it might be because you’re stalling at writing what comes next in your WIP. Are you stuck on a scene? Are you having trouble with your characters’ motivations? Have you written away from your outline if your plotter? Can you not see what comes next if you’re a panster? Be truthful with yourself. Are you worried about making what’s written perfect because you don’t know what to write next? The answer isn’t back there. I mean, you might need to tweak something, but remember, you’re drafting. If you’re worried about perfection, you might have a different problem right now and it’s not that what you’ve already written in the WIP is perfect.
4. Truth: You might benefit from a critique group. A critique group is a writers group who regularly shares pages of their work while they’re drafting or starting to work on first edits. Critique group members provide honest feedback. These groups can be found in a FaceBook Writers Group, your local writers chapter, or even online forums like Meetup. Why might you need a critique group? You’ll get some honesty from other writers who also have told themselves this lie about perfection. Critique groups are a great way to build camaraderie, confidence, and help writers understand this fact: your draft does not need to be perfect because–as you’ll learn from your Critique Group–it isn’t perfect. Consider if joining a critique group will help you. And if anything, you’ll make some writer friends and that’s never a bad thing.
5. Truth: You’ll never finish your draft if it must be perfect. Remember what I said about drafts? They just need to exist. I’m going to be honest with you, friend. If you feel your draft must be perfect, you’ll never finish. You’ll never get to ‘THE END.’ You must let go of this notion that good writers draft perfect work. They don’t. Good writers are ones who understand that editing and revising is the most important part of the writing process and that a writer cannot be two writer-selves at the same time: a drafter and an editor. But take a look at why you’re telling yourself this terrible lie. Are you stuck? Do you need writer friends to push you out of this mindset? Be honest because you know it’s true. Your draft has to be written or it can’t exist.
Un-lie to yourself. Truth: Your draft does not and should not be perfect. It just has to exist.