So you want to be a writer? Forget being a perfectionist

Recently I was reading a blog post by one of my favourite authors, Deanna Raybourn, about what she does well. To my surprise, she considers not being a perfectionist one of her strengths.

And it got me thinking . . .

Firstly, it’s important to note that while I am often retentive about details and rather methodical, I’m not a perfectionist. I know this because of my parents. My mother is something of a perfectionist while my father gets things done (sorry, Mum, but it’s hardly I surprise, I know).

I grew up watching my Mum carefully perfect various tasks while my father got on and did things. That’s not to say perfectionists don’t do things, but usually not quite as efficiently as non-perfectionists.


And I quickly realized that I wanted to get things done!

I’ve also discovered when it comes to writing, this approach has served me well.

When I was starting out and still deciding how serious I was going to get about writing, I attended a few courses. I got to meet a lot of other writers and the memory of one writer in particular has stayed with me. She was an older lady who admitted during a round table discussion that it had taken seven years to write her novel! Seven years! And she hadn’t even started editing it yet! I dare say there were some pretty strong perfectionist tendencies at play.

Now if writing is a hobby then by all means take all the time you want. But if you want to make a career in this field, you have to make things happen.

But hang on, isn’t detail important when you’re writing?

Absolutely. Detail is paramount, but you don’t have to be a perfectionist to be good at details.

And as much as writing is a solo occupation, don’t discount the importance of others in your writing. I have editors, proofreaders and beta-readers. One of my beta-readers rarely gives me structural feedback. Her focus is on the words I have missed or gotten wrong, God bless her!

When you’re writing you have to know when to stop

One of the things Deanna said in her blog post was that she works very hard at her writing and in getting the details correct (and I like to think I do too) HOWEVER she stresses the importance of knowing when to let go.


I couldn’t agree more.

When your head is stuck in the details and you’re writing tortured #amediting tweets, don’t forget that writing is a creative exercise. What you write now will be different to what you wrote five years ago or what you will write in five years time.

Change is all part of the process. So when I look back at my first published novel, Radiant, from a craft perspective I know there are things I would do differently now, but back then I did my very best and that’s all that matters.

What do you think? Is being a perfectionist detrimental to the writing process?

And if you’d like to read Deanna’s blog post, you can view it here.


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