Release the perfectionism and find your own voice as a writer
Of all the books I’ve ever read, the one that stands out as the most beautifully lyrical is Sting’s autobiography, Broken Music. Perhaps that can be explained by his years as lead singer and chief lyricist for The Police. I tend to think the British flavor of his writing is also a significant factor. However it came about, I was just so delightfully surprised by the book that certain details of his story still remain fixed in my mind, though I read it only once seven years ago.
Another wonderfully gifted writer is Ed Montini, columnist for the Arizona Republic, my hometown newspaper. His attention to detail and deft use of language enable him to spin word pictures like Rumpelstiltskin spun gold. That we still get to read him twice a week is a rare gift in a world of disappearing newspapers.
My writing, on the other hand — well, you can see it for yourself — tends to be proficient, but it’s no frills. “Just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday would say. Back in 2004, I made my first foray into the 3-Day Novel Contest. Though I did not win, I received what could only be considered an exceptional rejection letter, a handwritten note at the top of the form letter that said, “Laura, Stan (my title character) made it pretty far into the process. Good dialogue. Good flow. Good job.”
Heartened by the feedback, I set out to enhance and expand my original 109 pages (pretty typical for a 3-Day Novel submission) into something that more resembled an actual book. After two years, I think I might have bulked Stan up to a hefty 150 pages. Convinced I needed help, I asked my friend, Carol Hogan — an amazing poet in her own right — to have a look at it. Her feedback, while truthful, was telling of my skill (to that point, at least) as a fiction writer: “It’s a really good outline.”
I still believe Stan has a lot of promise and plan to finish his story one day, perhaps weaving in some of Carol’s fanciful and creative suggestions. The thing is, I know I’m not a bad writer. But I make a significant portion of my living editing other people’s words, which usually means paring back, NOT adding to the original text. So the gorgeous descriptions that make delicious fiction so vibrant are notably absent from mine, if only because my creative process just doesn’t seem to work that way. I would venture that the same is true for most of my writing.
That said, I do recognize and appreciate luminous writing when I see it. Two blogs I’ve recently begun reading come to mind. The first I mentioned last week: the anonymous gal who writes Stopping the Wind, in which she elegantly chronicles her commitment to personal change.
The other is Sonja Haller’s Soulful Writing. In a recent post, Sonja wrote about ditching the pursuit of perfection to begin creating. I liked it immediately because it reminded me of a post I did a few months back about my mantra for procrastinators: Done Is Better than Perfect. However, while Sonja writes soulfully of her own experience, I target the reader with an in-your-face bit of advice.
From Sonja’s post:
And almost weekly I struggle when doing a bit of creative writing because I’m waiting for some version of perfect to appear. I’m waiting for the kitchen to be all clean. I’m waiting to feel fully awake and alert. I’m waiting for some inspirational or ethereal nudge.
From my post:
And next time you are tempted to rewrite your blog message before posting it, change your social media profile picture one more time, re-read and edit your e-mail blast for the dozenth time, spend another hour editing a video, or any other aspect of what can only be called busywork, catch yourself in the act and recite your new mantra: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.
The thing is that neither is right or wrong. We simply have different writing styles. Just because I have a deep appreciation for melodious writing does not mean that everyone appreciates that type of prose. Some people are probably naturally attracted to a more straightforward, unembellished writing style. I think the biggest thing to take away from this discussion is the importance of finding YOUR voice. What about your writing makes it unique to you?
May you find a way to relinquish perfectionism and discover your voice!
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