The Insidious Side of Perfectionism

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My little sister has a lot going for her. She’s model beautiful, thin, smart, socially aware, vegan (so much commitment required to do this – I know because I’m vegan as well when I dine with her, which is a fair bit), loves animals and children, hates injustice and generally wants to make the world a better place and herself a better person. All of this is more amazing when you find out she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis (at the age of twenty, mind you), clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, endometriosis and a multitude of allergies. But she still managed to finish Year 12, complete a Certificate IV in Youth Work and is now studying a Bachelor of Social Work with aspirations of eventually doing a master’s degree.

She’s also a perfectionist. I shouldn’t be surprised it runs in the family since I’m a perfectionist, too, although our nineteen-year age gap has given me the time she hasn’t had yet to work through my perfectionism and settle on a more reasonable goal of extremely good. Mostly I meet that goal; sometimes no matter how hard I work, I don’t. Results can range from good, just okay, not good and complete failure, depending on what it is I’m doing. (Housework is a complete failure more often than not; I just can’t be bothered.) Continue reading

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Knowing When to Stop: How Much Editing is Too Much?

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The idea of writing the first draft of a book – when it’s still in your mind, when you haven’t done it yet – seems like such a large mountain to climb. So when you finally reach the top of that goal, you celebrate. Hard. If it’s your first book, that’s because you don’t realise it’s a false hill, that you aren’t at the top at all. If it’s not your first book, it’s because you know the really tough work is just starting and celebrating each and every achievement is one of the keys to not letting writing drive you insane.

Unless you’re a first draft genius (and nobody is a first draft genius), the amount of time it takes to rewrite and edit your book to publishable standard will be lengthy. For some it will be longer than it took to write the first draft. There’ll be a second draft and a third draft and a fourth draft and on and on it goes.

So how do we know when it’s time to stop editing? Continue reading

What Type of Editing Should You Ask For? (Yes, There’s More Than One!)

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Well, Project October and all the associated intensive writing is over for another year and that means it’s time for Project November and the intensive editing process to take its place. So here’s an appropriately timed blog post on the different types of editing.

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Earlier this year, I was asked if I might be interested in proofreading a coffee table book for a corporate company. It was the story of their beginnings all the way up to their current day successes, a glossy thing with lots of pictures, and none of their internal staff had the time to do it. Sure, I replied, providing my hourly rate and the length of time I thought a proofread would take based on the word count I’d been advised of.

But when the first chapter came through, it was clear it was still in its first draft. It hadn’t been through any of the other editing stages that should come before a proofread. It wasn’t even in the form of a proof (formatted as it will look in the final book with headers, footers, page numbers, columns, photographs, captions, etc). It was just a poorly formatted Word document.

No wonder nobody in the company had the time to do a proofread – they didn’t even know what proofreading was. In fact, they thought it was something else entirely. What they should have asked for was a rewrite, a line edit and copyediting, which then could have been sent to a designer or typesetter for preparation of a proof. Because it’s only after preparation of a proof that you can undertake a proofread. Continue reading

What I Learned from Keeping a Writing Journal

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After I wrote a blog post on the value of keeping a writing journal, I decided to keep one while I undertook a month of intensive novel writing. In addition to the 30,000 plus words I wrote for my novel, I also wrote 10,000 plus words for the writing journal. Although I posted the journal in its entirety on my blog during October (and although I think it’s a pretty interesting read, especially considering what happened to me in the final days of the month I was keeping it), I thought I would take pity on those readers who don’t have the time to read it all and distil a few things I learned along the way. Continue reading

Confessions Of A Reformed Perfectionist: Is “Good Enough” Good Enough?

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On the Australian television show, The Block, there is a sign in host Scott Cam’s HQ that says, “Good enough is not good enough.” It’s a fair enough sentiment when you consider what it is they’re doing: repurposing old buildings through significant structural change, often office buildings, hotels and blocks of teeny, tiny shoebox units and turning them into high quality, luxury and spacious apartments.

There are a lot of industries where “good enough” isn’t good enough. Building is one of them. Pharmaceuticals would be another. Medicine. Science. Engineering. We can’t have bridges falling down. We can’t have drugs that don’t work and doctors who work on a pass rate. We can’t have experiments that fail as often as they succeed. Continue reading