Procrastinating Perfectionist:…Oh, Wait That’s Me

“I want to do everything perfectly, no matter what it is…And besides, what do I always say? My art is always symmetrical!! Symmetry is the ultimate beauty.”  – Soul Eater (Atsushi Ohkubo)

Thus says Death the Kid, a neurotic grim reaper obsessed with symmetry and perfection. While I don’t have a particular insistence for symmetry, I can be a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my writing. And like Kid, sometimes that insistence on perfection can become obsessive, irritating to others, and ultimately self-defeating. I want to do it, but it has to be right the first time! If it’s not right, then it’s wrong and useless and a waste of time and then I have to go back and fix it and that takes more time and maybe I liked it the first way but no it’s no good at all!….pant…pant…pant…

But while I’m throwing a mental tantrum in the midst of outlining of some vital scenes, what is getting done? I can tell you easily what’s NOT getting done: the outline, scene development, character development, or pretty much anything that has to do with writing. These hissy fits with myself get worse the further along I get into the story, because I know that if I make some major change at this point, it’s going to cause a lot of hassling edits later, and KNOWING that I have to make those changes, that those earlier parts of the story are now incorrect, is like Death the Kid fretting that a picture in his home is leaning two centimeters to the right: I just can’t let it go, even though I know that it’s not going anywhere, not hurting anybody, and can be dealt with after the horde of mummies right in front of me are defeated. But I have to deal with it NOW! So what ends up happening? I stop in the middle of the cursed pyramid, leave my partners and zoom back home to fix that stupid picture! In the meantime, the story makes no progress at all, and the same neurosis is waiting to strike the second I decide to make another major change.

I am now in the final stages of my current Work In Progress. I have at last reached the point where I can visualize the details of the final arc. The end is nigh! But I start to wonder: is there enough subplot to keep the story engaging? Is there too much dialogue? Is the action too jerky? Do I give the characters enough diverse action to keep the story from being repetitive?……………should I check?…………But if I check, then I’ll have to go back and change stuff……that’ll take a long time……….I really should just write the end……but the ending will change if I add some extra sub-plots……..but if I change it now, I’ll have to go back through the whole thing and readjust the pacing for nearly all of it…….but…..but….

At this stage I reach utter creative stagnation, the inner conflict driving my will to write into a coma. This period lasts as long as I feel that there is something that needs fixing, but I am completely unwilling to fix it. I have become a Procrastinating Perfectionist, and I often require a break from my story, lots of chocolate and a new series of books to read before I completely recover.

It’s unfortunate, and I am happy to pass on the words my colleagues have used and I still strive for to prevent others from falling into WPN (Writer’s Perfection Neurosis):

Don’t get it right, get it written!

You are SUPPOSED to have a correctional editing phase!

Unless you are O. Henry, you won’t get it perfect on the first try. By the way, you are not O. Henry.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Haley Whitehall (@HaleyWhitehall)
    Aug 30, 2011 @ 17:19:08

    You can do it, Jennifer!
    I think most writers experience creative meltdown at some stage of their writing process. When I reach the stagnation phase, I switch to writing a short story or another WIP and after it passes return to the Work in Progress I want to finish. Hang in there. It is exciting that you’re so close to the end.


    • Jennifer Mandelas
      Aug 30, 2011 @ 22:05:21

      It’s good to have a group of friends and colleagues who remind you that you don’t suck. I’m excited to be nearing the end, but that excitement also brings a high self-expectation.


  2. andy
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 23:01:05

    I don’t think I’ve seen you throw a hissy fit ever. But it sounds entertaining….


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