Let’s get real. If everyone was a perfectionist the world would be a better place. Nothing more needs to be said because we all know it is totally true. The world would be cleaner, smarter, and way more efficient. I’m not saying people need to be OCD like Monk and want everything even and the same size. No, I’m talking about having things organized, and doing things correctly, and well, making things even and the same size would be nice too.
Sadly, the world is not this way.
But wait. I can guess what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Charlotte, your site is called Apathy and Rhetoric. Isn’t apathy the opposite of perfectionism?”
Pretty much, yes, which brings me to the point where I’m almost to the point of this post.
Because we live in a world where perfectionism is impossible there are times when apathy must be applied to maintain sanity. For example, I own way too much stuff to ever be able to efficiently organize my bedroom. Whenever I clean I get frustrated and overwhelmed by the futility of making my room perfect; therefore, I apply apathy and never clean my room. Problem solved. (This is called the All-or-Nothing Method. If you can’t make it perfect, don’t do it at all. Try it some time. It works wonders.* I don’t recommend trying it at work though. You might get fired.)
So when do we choose to be perfectionists and when are we apathetic? Well, that is up to you, but there is one scenario where I think apathy always applies: writing. (And in case you missed it, this is the point of this post).
When you are writing I have one simple rule: Aim for completion, not perfection. If you are constantly going back and fixing errors, changing dialogue, deleting characters, making new characters, or redoing the entire plot of your book you will never finish. I repeat, you will never finish. Now please don’t stop reading because you think I’m crazy and want you to write a horrible book. That is not what I’m saying. I’m saying I want you to write a horrible rough draft. I want you to get your story out of your head, all of your story, and not worry about fixing it until you’re done. Writing is not the time for perfection. Perfection should be sought during editing and rewriting. (I bet you didn’t even realize rewriting was a separate thing, did you? Well, it is.)
This is easier said than done. Here I am an hour into writing this post, and I’ve lost count of the number of edits I’ve done before even being close to finished. Keep pushing. If you find yourself worrying too long about the perfect word pick a crappy one and move on. Remind yourself that you can fix it later because if you are any good at writing you will be rewriting your novel (or blog post) at least fifty-million times. This is what writers do.
However, I should make it clear that even the best of writers never achieve true perfection. Paul Valery said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” I’m pretty sure this applies to all writing. Ask any author and they will probably tell you there are many things they would change in their novel if they could, even the novels that are best sellers. So yes, apathy has its place in rewriting as well. In fact, apathy has its place in every aspect of life, but that conversation if for a different post.
If you find yourself wanting to practice the utilization of apathy I suggest starting a blog. My posts never seem perfect or finished to me, but I force myself to publish them anyway because otherwise I’d never publish anything and wouldn’t have a blog. It’s actually quite exhilarating to know that once the posts are published I can stop thinking about them and move on. Writing is much more fun this way.
And on that thought, I’ll end this post by sharing some quotes I wanted to fit into this post, but couldn’t find the “perfect” spot for.
“The first draft of anything is $*!%.” -Ernest Hemingway
“You can fix anything but a blank page.” -Nora Roberts
“The best writing is rewriting.” –E.B. White
Happy writing. 🙂
*You may be called lazy when utilizing this method.