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Perfectionism

11 days ago
So I'm wondering how the productive writers on here deal with perfectionism.

Now the common advice is to just ignore it, turn off your internal editor, yata yata. And that works for some things, but not for others for me.

I'd say for me perfectionism has multiple forms. The most common one is obsessing over prose. That one is the easiest for me to say, "Look, I'll deal with it later. This isn't final. You'll get to make this perfect eventually, just wait for now." Now most of the time, as I only seem to be able to force myself to write at most a week before a contest deadline, I don't get to fix the prose to perfection. In fact my main complaint on my last contest entry is I hated the prose on that story. But telling myself I'll get to fix it helps tone that down a ton.

Now what's harder to deal with is before I write anything I feel like I need to have every scene already planned out to its fullest. This isn't as much as a big deal once I start a project, but it makes starting super difficult. I'll scrap entire story ideas because they're too ambitious. Honestly this instinct might be a good things, but I just can't seem to get an idea that works until right at the contest deadline, and without a contest deadline all my ideas are too big to start.

Lastly, and the biggest problem of all for me, is that I feel like I need to know every thing that will happen in a scene before writing it. To the point where I think about lines of dialogue. The thought of forcing myself to just write the damn scene before I'm fully ready is just unthinkable to me. The way I brainstorm for a story is by going outside and dribbling a basketball. It keeps my hands busy while I think. I spend around 3-4 hours of brainstorming outside for every hour of actual writing. And this is after having a really good idea of all the scenes in the story. And I end up improvising a ton of things any way.

This method does have the added benefit of when I actually do write I get around 1000-1500 words per hour. Though I can't really force myself to write that much because I'm spending all my time obsessing over what to write. For data, I have spent the last 3 days doing nothing but thinking about my contest story for the most part, I'm a student on summer vacation and I have nothing better to do. In those last 3 days I've written for a total of 2 hours and 3k words. That's insane to me, and I look at authors who just jump in and go and I feel like they might have struggled with something similar and found some way to overcome it. Or maybe this is just a me problem.

So I guess my question is how does perfectionism manifest for you and how have you learned to deal with it.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
You have a terrible diet and terrible sleep schedule that fucks your ability to focus, and you are using the common excuse of "smh my standards just TOO high" as an excuse to procrastinate.

If it was really perfectionism, it would show up in other areas of your life and it still wouldn't keep you from writing, just from making things like The Manliest Man public where others could see it.

You're not writing and getting anxiety because what if the things you produce are just not good enough, you're just not writing.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
A lot of those things have changed for the better, actually. In the around 2 years gap since I was last really involved with the site I learned a lot about how I function and things like that. My home situation has changed massively for the better as I'll be moving into a college dorm in a little under 2 months from now, as I got into a program that pays for my full tuition, room and board, and food while living on campus at one of the top universities in my state my junior and senior year. The journey of studying around 100 hours for the ACT and making an in depth application and essay's really changed my view on productivity.

As far as diet goes I've worked on it a bit. Haven't made as much progress as I'd have liked, but I hope to change that durastically when I have a gym a 5 minute walk from me and friends to work out with, as well as complete control over all food I buy or get from the cafeteria.

Either way that's just me ranting about all the things that's changed in the last two years, but to address the core message there, I don't think my argument was "my standards are sooo high, I can't write because I don't want to produce garbage like you lot." I'm saying that I am writing, but am taking a lot of planning time because I always get so caught up in wanting to know exactly what'll happen before I write it. I'm still writing, as evidenced by averaging 1k a day in the last three days, but I know that I could be getting closer to 3k a day with the amount of time I'm spending on it if I was spending that whole time writing instead of planning.

The reason I got 3k is because I spent the first part of the summer with my main productive focus being courses on khan academy. When that was my main productive focus I averaged around 2 hours a day. Right now in writing I'm averaging 40 minutes, with a writing rate of 1500 wph. If I could bump that 40 minutes up to 2 hours I could write 3k a day.

I don't really appreciate the whole Manliest Man comparison because I was like 13 when I wrote that. I looked it up and I cringe thinking about the fact I was 13-14 when I wrote that, I thought it was like 12. Either way I'm 16 now, which is a load of difference. I just don't understand the last sentence because I am writing, and I am getting anxiety about my writing not being good enough.

Either way this post is only half me seeking personal advice, I also am just curious of others expierences with the issue. It's a super common writer problem, but every time it's talked about it's always talked about in the context of prose. I'm wondering if anyone suffers with it beyond that

E: Re reading this you might have just meant, "shut up, just fucking write." If that's the case then I'm sorry for the long winded response. I agree with that advice and find it helpful, as opposed to, "take time for yourself, don't write if you don't want to." I just got a little upset at the invalidation part of the statement. Not to mention I always feel like I have so much to prove on this site, which leads to this sort of stuff having a bigger effect on me than I would've liked. I really do appreciate the whole, "stop making excuses and write thing," and I'm aware that time spent doing anything other than writing, i.e brainstorming, isn't writing.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Who is this and where is TurtleAce?

Perfectionism

11 days ago
>Either way I'm 16 now, which is a load of difference.

Believe me, it's really, REALLY not.

Also can I read the manliest man somewhere?

Perfectionism

11 days ago
I know it's not in the grander scale of life, but think about the whole, "Middle schoolers are the most cringe thing ever" stereotype. Not true in all cases, but in mine is certainly was. I've been on this site since I was 11, which just happens to be 6th grade. The transition from 6th to 11th grade is massive.

And thankfully not. You really, really don't want to read that.

Perfectionism

11 days ago

Ace, I understand where you are coming from.  But I think you should really consider Mizal's response again as it is a really good answer.  It doesn't seem to me that she is saying "Just shut up and write." (though that probably is the bottom line of what needs to happen) 

What I think Mizal is pointing out to you is that you are confusing "perfectionism" and "procrastination". And that saying it is because of perfectionism is just an excuse your procrastination uses to delay you.  

True perfectionism would cause you to obsess over the details, but would also keep you focused on working on them until you get them right.  You would continue writing the scene over and over until it is just right, unable to let it rest in an unfinished or imperfect state.

Procrastination will use any excuse possible to keep us from getting down to business and getting stuff done.  Sometimes we wrap our excuses in things that seem more positive to us (perfectionism), but at some point we just have to get to work and force ourselves to focus. Methods to focus and beat procrastination can be different for everyone. But if we identify and face the real issue, lack of focus and procrastination, it's a lot easier to overcome.

 

Perfectionism

11 days ago

LOL

Perfectionism

11 days ago

Lol, fag.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Not that I'm the shining example of a good writer, but my advice, for all that's worth, is: "Just write, faggot".

If you're writing a story, presumably you already have an idea/theme in mind, even if it's not properly developed. Write something and see how it goes. If it's working, keep it and enhance it. If it's not, dump it. If you spent an hour writing something totally shit, and have to discard all of it, that's not an hour wasted; you gained some valuable experience. And maybe you've determined the direction you want to take a character in.

If you don't have an idea/theme in mind, why the fuck are you writing a story?

When you finish writing a chunk, go back and re-read it. Don't do that after you have already written the whole story. That way you can notice if shit starts conflicting.

Now, what I'm saying probably doesn't apply if your story will be very lengthy, probably need at least a bit more planning there, but somehow I just feel you won't be writing the next "Eternal" if you're asking a question like this.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Why do you need to know exactly how a scene will go? I could understand if this were a novel you needed to do specific things with in a certain order, but here anything you write is just another option.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
It's definitely the idea of being scared to write something that won't work. I'm not just talking about wanting a certain order to scenes, I'm talking about wanting to know what things happen on each page so that I don't have to go back and delete something that doesn't work. That's really the core of it.

Perfectionism

11 days ago

Honestly, If that is the core of it, it is an easy fix.  Everybody edits and deletes stuff.  In fact, that is one of the main things editors do - "don't include that, add some here, etc."  Deleting is easy.  It's not like we are banging these things out on an old typewriter. (unless of course you are).

Perfectionism

11 days ago
I've gotten more comfortable over time with leaving shitty prose to edit and rewrite later, but the idea of scrapping whole interactions seems scary to me. Maybe it's just something I'll need to work through, idk.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Maybe try writing a different way?

For example, you mention that you cannot write until you know the entire scene. What if you didn't? What if you started writing with something you didn't know? For example, two guys show up at the basketball court at one time. What do they say to each other? Start writing and see if you can react in real time.

Try using different writing prompts (there's billions on the intertubes). See if they help you get started writing, even if it's not on your story.

Try writing different stories. Right now I have 5 stories that I'm actively writing. When I'm stuck in one story, I switch to another story.

Try a writing habit: from 12:30 to 1:30 each day you're going to sit and write. Even if you only write 10 words, that entire time is dedicated to writing and nothing else.

Try a word writing habit: force yourself to write 500 words on a story every single day, no matter what. No matter how bad the writing is, you can't get up until you've written 500 words.

Just some ideas...

Perfectionism

11 days ago

Those are good suggestions.

TBH, I sometimes mentally refer to some ideas from your storygame Finding the Muse to help me focus.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Thanks, that was kind of the point of that storygame! :)

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Interesting ideas, I know I "can" discovery write, but the thought of sitting down to write and not being able to jump right in sounds petrifying. As well as the idea of just writing a single scene. I get to where if I have an idea for a scene within a story I start thinking about the wider plot almost instantly. I get what you're saying though, write outside your comfort zone and all that.

The multiple story thing sounds like something that could work and something that couldn't. On one hand the idea of switching off of a story without stopping writing completely sounds like a great idea, but on the other I seldom have enough follow through to finish one projects, multiple sounds overwhelming.

As far as the habits, I do a looser idea of them. I set a word count goal of 1500-2000 words and tell myself I can stop focusing on writing when I reach it. Now I almost never do, but it gives me something to aim for.

I know the point of them is to force yourself to be consistent, and more importantly it seems the idea is to do it all in one sitting, which sounds really challanging.

I'll definetly try some of these out, thanks!

Perfectionism

11 days ago

Others have already given the good advice of "try writing from the seat of your pants."  This is probably better advice than what I'm going to give, but what I'm suggesting might be a good intermediary step if that's too hard for you at the moment.

Since you've shown that you prefer knowing what's going to happen in a plot/scene before you write it, I suggest you create extremely detailed brainstorms, right down to individual paragraphs and lines.  It sounds like from what you're saying that you only create these guides in your head.  This way you will forget a lot, and have to re-do a lot of planning as you write.

An exercise that might help you is each day, you sit down, set a timer and write for 15 minutes.  It doesn't have to be good, it doesn't have to be about your current project, it doesn't even have to be fiction, you just have to spend the entire 15 minutes writing.  This may help you work past some of your blocks.

EDIT:  Ah, I should have read Ogre's post more thorougly, it seems this has already been suggested.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
I actually sort of do this. I spend whatever time planning what I'm working on, then decide to sit down and write for 20 minutes, uninterrupted. The main thing stopping me is the amount of 20 minute blocks I do a day. I also stop at the end of every 20 minutes no matter what, since while I understand flow state is important, I've heard a lot about, "Stop writing every day in the middle of a sentence so you know exactly what to write the next day," advice.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
I find that having a sort of "writing ritual" helps me get into the actually-writing-stuff zone. Like, sitting in a particular part of the house whenever you write so as to build up the habit of being willing to write when you're in that part of the house. That's just one example, maybe you could have a particular "writing drink" like jasmine tea or something. Either way, rituals are great for habit-building and if it's actually sitting down and writing that you're struggling with (which seems to be the case) then that might help. Everyone else's suggestions are great too.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
The whole mental link between environment and productive actions is really interesting. Some of the stuff you purpose wouldn't gel so well with my system right now since I currently write in 20 minute chunks instead of large blocks of time, but I do incorperate sort of my own version to this.

For instance I have my writing in another window, which isn't entirely related but I find it helps. Most important for this point is I make it a point to turn on lofi music while I write to make that mental link. When I move out or if I go to more lengthy writing blocks I'll definitely consider something like a food or place. In fact that's a great idea for studying also, since that tends to be longer blocks of dedicated time.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Commended by mizal on 6/23/2022 10:53:07 AM

Tackling Perfectionism in Writing

To be honest, I don’t really know why I’m typing this when I’ve got a storygame to work on. But I suppose this is just another form of procrastination, and after facing a lot of struggles with perfectionism in this current contest entry, I think I’d do my future self a favor and make a list of some things which really helped me tackle these problems.

Disclaimer: Not all of these tips would work for you. Depending on the type of author you are (e.g. plotter, plantser, panters, etc) and the type of storygame you’re working on (gauntlet, cave-of-time, or a different type entirely), some of these might work for you while others won’t. But writing is largely about finding out what techniques are helpful to your personal style and what aren’t, and you’ll discover new tricks to combat perfectionism over time.

Also: I think 16 is a great age to begin more serious attempts at writing. Not only do you have more time and energy, but school isn’t too difficult at that age either. For instance, I had enough time to completely write Dreamtruder and Breaker within almost a month each (although Breaker did have a pre-written and largely revised prologue), and still managed to get grades above 80% and 90% while writing in some of my classes. But focus on school first, it’s important for your future. (And I can’t believe back then I actually considered an average of above 80% good enough lol).

Alright, enough rambling on. Time to tackle the main tips and techniques I use to deal with perfectionism:

Planning

Depending on the type of storygame you write, there are several ways to plan an idea out. What usually happens for me is that I get hit with a brilliant idea, so here’s step one of the planning process: write down everything.

1. Write down everything

Just open up a new document and jot down everything about your storygame, be it a character detail, a worldbuilding idea, premise, overarching theme, or setting inspiration. Let it all flow onto the page. This is the first ‘plan’ you’ll have, and even if it’s full of plot holes and seemingly unrelated information, don’t worry about that yet.

As you delve into the later stages of your storygame, you might come up with more random flashes of inspiration (e.g. dialogue between characters, sudden plot twists, etc) and feel free to revisit this document to write it down.

2. Organize the information

Here’s where you get into the barebones plan for your storygame, or as some people call it, the outline. You’ll separate the information into different parts (e.g. character details, setting, etc). Based on the structure of your storygame, here’s what it could look like:

Different ‘sections’ or ‘chapters’: All of my published storygames follow this structure. One is separated by days, and another, by stages of a competition. I usually have a few outlines: one for plot, one for character, and another where I just write down setting details. For instance, the character one will look something like this:

Ch 1: Introduce readers to the mc and world, show desire vs fear (internal conflict), make choices with delayed consequences later on, call to action

Ch 2: Competition stage 1. Mini cave-of-time within this competition, show the main competitors and set the tone for the rest of the competition.

Ch 3: Competition stage 2. Mini cave-of-time within this competition, convey the theme through showing what atrocious acts mankind is capable of, and play into the mc’s misbelief. End with the misbelief stronger than ever.

Ch 4: CS 3, same structure, show the mc acting on this misbelief, making choices which lead to the dark disaster moment at the end of this chapter.

Ch 5: CS 4, same structure, mc realizes the flaw behind the misbelief and can either continue to believe in it (corruption arc) or relinquish it (redemption arc). Also thematic plot twist happens here.

Ch 6: Mc finds out the truth about [spoiler for upcoming contest] and can either choose to act on misbelief or realize how her journey has taught her the truth about it. Heavily influences epilogue.


Cave-of-time: I’m not the most well-equipped to talk about this, but I’ve halfway written a cave-of-time storygame up to around 50k words until I decided to put it on hold for this contest. However, my plan detailed the different branches, where they’ll split, and the overall theme of each (since I view cave-of-time storygames as different mini-stories, each with their own completed route and death endings, although some of them share beginnings and several scenes). But feel free to plan it however you’d like, separating it into different ‘sections’ you’ll finish by self-imposed deadlines, and set a timer to prevent yourself from going overboard.

3. The ‘detailed’ outline

Up until now, most things have only been loosely planned. As a plantser, this is usually enough, since I discover a lot of interesting character details, unplanned plot twists, and new actions my character would take when I delve into my writing. But if you like planning, then here’s the thing: you don’t have to plan everything from the get go. Just envision the prologue or first scene in your mind, using that as the ‘plan’, then write it out in bullet points/ short paragraphs. There’s no point in planning chapter 4 in its entirety if you still haven’t gotten past chapter 1 (and besides, your story might not go in the direction you think it would).

I tend to keep the ‘detailed’ outline in my mind (e.g. how many scenes, main moments in each, etc) before I write each specific part, but sometimes my plans shift drastically and I can either allow it to happen, or write it out and then change it later if I don’t think it’s a good idea. So only come up with a detailed plan for each chapter or scene right before you write it, rather than detailing the whole storygame at the start.

This is also where fixing all the plotholes come into play. In your detailed outline, feel free to deviate from the document where you wrote down everything and choose only the most relevant details you want to focus on in the storygame. 

One final note on planning: It is not a substitute for writing. While creating plans for your storygame is useful, do try and keep this separate from your writing sessions to prevent being in the planning, daydreaming mode when you ought to write instead.

I usually create a detailed plan in my head during my ‘break’ times (like at lunch, in the shower, when I’m unable to sleep, etc) but when I write, I trust myself to have full confidence in my plan, at least until I turn on the editor mode and decide whether each scene is good enough to keep.

Writing

Now we’ve gotten past the planning stage, it’s time to actually write the storygame. Tbh, this is the part where my perfectionism is the worst. Let’s just say that after writing a good number of featured storygames, I’ve begun to worry about living up to my past works and I’m constantly worried that Dreamtruder may have been my peak (because even now, it’s still my highest rated storygame, but that could be due to it being the first storygame people use to see when they clicked on the site).

But enough about me. Let’s dive into some tips that have helped me greatly with this on a day-to-day basis.

1. Remember your past failures

Ok, this is a bit of a strange one. But trust me, it works wonders when you’re anxious. Rather than working through the perfectionism, first ask yourself, “do I even really need this storygame to be perfect?”

One of the main reasons perfectionism started impacting me in this contest is due to my past storygames. When I wrote the others, I was a bit younger, and didn’t feel any pressure aside from getting words down and enjoying the process immensely. But now, being more involved in the CYS community, it feels as if I’ve got to constantly live up to this expectation of being the ‘productive’ writer everyone knows me as.

So that’s when I think of my past failures. If my past self could write badly proofread epics with unrealistic dialogue and awkward prose (which are all actual comments I’ve gotten btw, and I do agree with them) and still get my storygames featured, how much is this better proofread work with more attention to characters, prose, and plot capable of?

Maybe you don’t have crowning stories to speak of right now. But that’s fine. Remember: you can only get better than where you are. Even if that story isn’t perfect, if it’s better than your previous one, consider that good enough. At least people can only say you’re improving. And let’s be real, no one expects anyone to just become the new EndMaster out of the blue, so you don’t have to worry yourself about unrealistic expectations like that. Just write, and aim for progress over perfection. Then maybe someday you’ll be able to achieve those previously out-of-reach expectations.

2. Reframing what success means

Instead of telling yourself to write 100k word epics or 8k words in a day, start small. Set goals like ‘writing every day’, ‘maintaining focus in a writing sprint’ or ‘finish this plot point by the end of this day’. Not only will you focus on something much more tangible, like progress instead of ‘quality of writing’, but it would take your focus off perfect prose.

For example, when I focus on completing a chapter in a day, my priorities would be writing quickly and getting my thoughts down on paper. This leaves me little time to think about whether the words I’ve written are good enough. And since I can always edit later (which brings me to the next point), there’s no need to get it perfect the first time around.

A quote from a famous author (I forgot which) says that if you spent a day on bad writing, it wouldn’t be any different from spending time not writing at all. This helps me take the pressure of worrying about needing to heavily edit or redraft a scene to the point where I don’t write at all.

3. Set time for editing or second drafts

I’ve found having edit sessions before my writing sessions have been really useful. Not only would re-reading past scenes help me transition from the real world to the fictional one in my storygame, but it also ensures I don’t have to get it right the first time.

In the past, I hated drafting. I wrote my storygames directly in the CYS editor and thought, if I could do it well the first time, why would I need to re-write? But recently, I’ve found it liberating to write freely, knowing that messy prose and cosmetic issues would be resolved by a less-tired, more-focused me. This has helped me get out of a writing rut too.

And I guess the first-drafts-only approach I used in the past worked because I didn’t feel perfectionism as strongly back then. I used to have the ability to leave my overachieving self at school, but it’s begun to bleed into my writing more recently.

4. Set consequences

I’ve been attending a lot of virtual writing talks to procrastinate, and one thing they advocate for is setting consequences. I’ll explain a bit about why it works here (credits to Abbie Emmons, a writer who posts psychology-related writing tips on Youtube).

All humans make decisions based on what gives them the least pain. That’s why we procrastinate in CYS contests. Until the pain of churning out bad writing becomes less than the pain of not delivering a complete storygame for the contest, we do not start our entries. 

But you can use this to your advantage. I’ve set mini-deadlines for myself and forced myself to write by essentially saying, “If you do not write Chapter 2 by this date, you will be unable to finish this storygame.”

Now obviously that’s not true, since like any other perfectionist I’ve got to have buffer days in case of emergencies, but I’ll mentally frame it so the pain of not writing consistently, leading up to an incomplete entry, is worse than having to write and rewrite again. But now I’m actually really behind schedule (even considering my buffer days) so maybe I’m not the best person to talk about this lol.

Let me repeat that: Make sure the consequences of not writing are worse than the consequences of bad writing.

The other writers in a talk I attended decided to give up their daily cup of coffee or tea each day if they do not reach their word counts. Thus, the pain of losing out on their coffee would hurt worse than the pain of forcing themselves to write, therefore making it easier for them to write. For me, I tend to give up checking CYS or the rumored Discord server if I don’t write, along with youtube, instagram, and pinterest (I spend way too much time listening to music, reading about writing tips from my favorite accounts, and looking at pretty wip-related pictures). It works best for me if the things I give up are also the things I use to procrastinate the most.

So if I don’t check CYS or the Discord, or if I’m online without doing anything except transferring new pages to my storygame, you’ll now know that means I’ve failed my writing goals for the day.

TL;DR - Strive for progress over perfection and adopt your own planning process. Also, read the rest of this post if you really need help with this topic instead of skimming the tl;dr, because I’ve spent way too long on it and I’ve got a really tight writing deadline to get back to. And no, I won’t be summarizing it for those too lazy to glance at the numbered titles. You’re probably not the type of people who are perfectionists anyway.

That’s all for now. Hope it helps any other writers struggling with perfectionism out there  :)

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Thanks, this was a huge help. It was authors like you I wanted to hear from the most, the ones who seemingly push out thousands of words a day and make huge epics really fast. Would you really advise editing while drafting? I always thought the normal approach was draft the whole story first then edit it all at the end.

Perfectionism

11 days ago
Pro tip: don't edit. Saves time.

Perfectionism

10 days ago

tl;dr

Perfectionism

10 days ago

If you're writing a novel, drafting would come at the end of everything else. But for this contest, I've decided to only draft weaker or important scenes instead of the entire written piece just because I don't have time to do the latter.

But it's possible to draft storygames at the end too. It would just be more work and you'll need enough time to re-read everything in the first draft before diving into the major rewriting, which is why I'll only use it on non-contest storygames.

Perfectionism

10 days ago

Great post on how to organize your writing with a lot of good techniques and suggestions.  I definitely need to work on being more organized.

Perfectionism

10 days ago
Something that usually works for me when I can be bothered is to make comments on stuff I don't like while I'm writing. Probably not as helpful as other posts, but it's something I guess.