Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Perfect Writers Need Not Read...
No, this isn't my son's Halloween costume. Facial wax strips, in case you couldn't tell. His sister thought it would be hilarious to turn him into a mummy. And he complacently agreed.
Comedy is no fun without an audience and so our creative children decided to assume the mummy position and march their way downstairs an hour past their bedtime. (Need I mention that the removal wasn't as amusing for my son?)
If you are a parent no doubt you've held back a snicker or two as your children acted like trouble with a capital "T" and somehow became astoundingly cute at the same time. Too bad it doesn't really work with grown-ups.
The jovial mood was gone as we had to remove the strips from Noah's face one-by-one. Lesson learned. Our two children finally settled in to sleep as we headed out of reach to have a chuckle.
What's your point, Julia? And what does this have to do with writing anyway?
The picture displayed and described will be part of a video for the launch of a great new parenting book called No More Perfect Kids by Kathy Koch and Jill Savage.
I am thrilled to have my picture displayed as part of the message that there are no perfect moms or kids, but by God's grace we can keep growing. For many years I carried scars about being imperfect. Don't we carry those same scars as writers?
*That comment made by a contest judge that still enters our mind word for word every time we polish a story for a new competition?
*Those lies the enemy whispers into our ear during our writing time that keep us hitting the backspace and ending up with a near empty page?
*The lies that keep us from bringing our writing to share with others at our critique group because its not polished enough...for the third week in a row?
*The continual frustrated feeling that our writing will never be where we want it to be?
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they might have life and have it to the full. JOHN 10:10 NIV
How do we know the difference between perfectionism and a healthy perception of "good enough"?
Here's the definition of perfectionism, according to Merriam-Webster online: a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.
NEWSFLASH: There are no perfect writers, never have been. Shooting for perfection will only lead to condemnation which will eventually result in lack of growth.
Why? Because we can never reach the standard we set for ourselves so we will give up. Its not productive.
Perfectionism steals our joy. We will never be good enough. Our descriptions, our dialogue, nothing about our writing can compare to the standard of perfection.
It KILLS our love of writing. It isn't too long before we say, why bother?
This call to life includes our writing. God wants us to grow and flourish like spring plants in our writing as we arch closer to the sun (SON).
So how do we allow God to breathe life and growth into our writing, rather than letting the weeds of perfectionism kill our joy and productivity?
1) Consider writing with pen and paper for your first draft.
We are often told to write a sloppy first copy. This can be especially challenging for a perfectionist. Writing with pen on paper allows you to process before deleting. Maybe there is a word or two in there worth saving. For those who have a reflex toward hitting the delete key, writing in pen may be helpful.
2) Set a deadline for "good enough."
Determine a time when you will show your work. Give yourself plenty of time to polish, but maybe a little less time than you wish. After a certain number of days on this chapter, determine you will show it to a critique partner.
3) Stop apologizing for your work.
We're not perfect. We do need critique partners, contest judges and others to help us grow. BUT never apologize for where you are in your journey. You need to accept that your rate of speed is your own. Your growth is your own. Focus on doing your best with the time you have.
For I am confident of this very thing; that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6, NASB
Christ gave us any gifts we have to offer. AND HE will PERFECT it for when HE RETURNS for His bride. You are a work in process. He is doing the work. Notice God doesn't say we will or can perfect anything here.
4) Throw off the "sin" that hinders.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. HEBREWS 12:1, NIV
"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; ACTS 3:19, NASB
Perfectionism doesn't lead to refreshing, only frustration. Spend time with the Lord. Sin in any area of your life will hinder your writing ministry. God wants to bring freshness and newness. If God has called us to write, it should bring rejuvenation to us as well. Yes, there are hard times, but it should bring us a sense of peace in being obedient to His calling. Make sure there is nothing else in your life that is hindering your writing. Remember you can't do any of this in your own strength.
Often perfectionism comes from pride. We are worried about what others might think of our work more than what God thinks of it.
Do we want to make a good impression to glorify us? Is it that we want people to see our talent and praise us, rather than just allowing God to minister through us?
Will we accept a quiet ministry of glorifying him or do we want to be known in our field for our own merits?
5) Run with perseverance.
Seek out an online course. Admit to a friend or critique partner that she is much better than you are at dialogue and ask for her tips. Humility can be a great medication for perfectionism.
Set a goal for your own growth that is measurable. Instead of saying I will master dialogue this year, how about I will read two books about dialogue this month and each day I will revise one chapter, looking specifically for ways to improve?
6) Run the race marked out for YOU.
Your race is not anyone else's. God's timing for you is not the same. The refining tools he uses may look different. BUT rest assured he has a specific plan and a course marked out for you. He will guide you along the way. He delights to show you the "ropes" and cheer you on. Run with perseverance toward the finish line.
He who began a good work in you will complete it, keep running toward the finish line.
Let go of being perfect and be all God created you to be instead.
YOUR TURN: Do you struggle with perfectionism in your writing? Or in other areas of your life? Have you found anything that helps you overcome the threat of perfection?