Friday, January 27, 2012

Writing to Done

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

img-016My husband, God bless him, is a perfectionist.

I had some pictures that I’d wanted to hang on one of our walls. They’re nice botanical prints.

The problem was that there were six of them. It wasn’t really a problem, except that it meant that my husband wanted to devote a lot of time into getting the pictures hung. You know—measuring the wire on the back of the prints, cutting out tissue paper replicas of the pictures to arrange on the wall, carefully marking up the wall with pencil, using a tape measure to create a grid on the wall…

This is not to say that this is the wrong way to hang pictures. No, it’s the right way. Except that it requires a lot of time—and my husband has very little free time. And I don’t have the patience to hang pictures that way.

My botanical prints sat neatly stacked on the floor for many months…until a few weeks ago when my husband left town for a trip.

While he was gone, I grabbed the hammer, eyeballed the pictures and the spot I wanted them in, and started putting nails in the wall. Ten minutes later, the prints were hung. I think they look pretty good.

Now…are there a bunch of holes in the wall under my pictures where I had to rehang crooked prints? Absolutely. There are also a few holes in the walls between the pictures. Can you tell, looking at the wall, that there are a bunch of little holes in it? Not unless you get really, really close. The overall effect is very nice.

The important thing is just to finish. We shouldn’t let perfectionism keep us from ever finishing a book because we want to get the story or the diction or the voice perfect. If we finish our book, then we can fix any problems or mistakes.

I do know a lot of writers who like to edit as they go and work really well that way. I’d just add that if you do write that way and it’s not going particularly well, consider taking the time to reevaluate your process and see if a different approach might work better for you.

How do you put perfectionism behind you during your first draft?