“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere." Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird
I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times.
Okay, that's just a nice way of saying I'm anal-retentive. When I do something, it's go big or go home. There are certain activities I won't even attempt- mini golf, pool, bowling- because I can't handle how badly I suck at them.
This carries into my writing as well. When I was working on the first draft of my novel, hours upon workable hours would go by while I "fixed" what I'd written the previous day. The funny thing is, once I got to the actual editing phase, none of those previous polish-ups mattered. My completed first draft, while not total shit, came pretty close. I had been working my head into a tizzy over individual words and sentences, when entire paragraphs, entire scenes, needed to be reworked.
That was my first valuable lesson: there's a reason everyone tells you not to edit while you're writing.
Fortunately for me, there is a time and a place for perfectionism. Once I finished my first draft, it needed work. A lot of work. More than I expected. Thanks to some honest feedback and more than a few stiff drinks, I pinpointed where the problems were and fixed everything I could. It was a task of herculean proportions, and my anal-retentive tendencies proved themselves incredibly useful.
Now I'm nearing the end of this leg of my journey. I'm pleased with my work, and I've grown through the process. I've learned a lot about the craft of writing that will serve me well on my next novel. There's still that pesky "time management" thing to deal with. Working on that one.
But I think the biggest lesson I've learned is how to let go a little. There came a point about halfway through my first draft, when I realized there were problems with it. Significant problems. It hit me that if I went back and tried to fix them before continuing on, I might never finish the book. That's when my mindset switched from pseudo-editor to writer. "Fuck it," I said. "I'll fix it when I'm done."
I did. And I finally have something I can be proud to put my name on.
Still, don't invite me to play mini-golf.