As the Fairground Attraction song says, “It has to be-ee-ee-ee-ee…perfect!” In the romantic comedy Driving in Neutral, über-anxious forty-something Ella is hellbent on having “the perfect wedding.” Her levelheaded best friend, Olivia, is there to see that ‘perfect happens’… or clean up the wedding cake when it doesn’t. Perfectionism, it is one hell of an anxiety, as author Keziah Hill can attest.
Oh. My. God. I have atelophobia. The fear of imperfection. Classified as an anxiety disorder, Wikipedia tells me all about the physical, emotional and mental symptoms of this fear. Some of them include:
- difficulty thinking about anything other than the fear
- pessimistic view on the outcome of situations before it happens
- constant worrying about upcoming activities
- unhealthy emotions, such as anger, sadness, jealousy and hurt
- the desire to abruptly leave the situation
Does this sound like something some of you might be familiar with? Some of you who might be involved in some kind of creative pursuit? Dare I say it, possibly writing?
Yes, I’m one of those anxiety filled writers who edits as I go and finds it almost impossible to write a dirty first draft. I’ve tried, god knows I’ve tried. I’m slow, I’m picky and I get gloomy about what I’m producing. I want the novel to appear perfectly formed in my head so I can just let it all out through my fingers. It never has. So why do I put myself through this torture if I can’t let go of my fear of imperfection?
Well, it’s the stories and sometimes the voices. It’s hard to ignore that blinding flash of an idea while standing in the supermarket checkout line or on a long train trip to Sydney. The thrill of working out a plot problem or getting just the right combination of words on the page fills me with creative joie de vivre. There’s nothing like being in the writing zone.
So how do I manage this fear of imperfection? For me there are two main strategies. The first is to embrace my writing method. Okay, so I edit as I go. I don’t like dirty drafts. I brood and mull and ponder. I break out in a cold sweat when I hear the incredible word counts some people can do in a day. That’s not me, and given my back, I don’t want it to be me.
The second strategy and probably the most important, is remember to trust the process. Trust the words. When I start doubting this, the words dry up but more importantly, so do the ideas. I’m convinced that words exist to be in relationship with each other (sounds obvious but I’m a slow learner) and when I start to believe the words are not working or have led me astray, they get insulted and stop wanting to be with each other.
Every single time, when I have sat down in despair at the computer and forced myself to write though a section of the novel that seems impossible, the words wake up from their slumber and start talking to each other again. It seems to be a lesson I need to learn over and over again.
So embrace the fear of imperfection! Don’t berate it and don’t despair. Make it feel it’s doing a good job while you get those words on the page. In the end, you write the way that makes sense to you.
After quite a few years working in the criminal justice system, Keziah Hill decided a tree change was needed so decamped to the blissful Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia. Amid a garden full of flowering blossoms, roses and the odd marauding possum, she writes steamy erotic romance and romantic suspense while trying not to procrastinate too much. Her work is available at most digital bookshops. You can find out more about her books here, follow her on twitter @KeziahHill & facebook, and get her books Hot Down Under and Chains of Revenge