I Am a Recovering Perfectionist

I spent the past 30+ years of my life in denial about being a perfectionist. I never thought of myself as one. The way I used to see it, perfectionists are people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, fussing endlessly over trivial nuances that no one else cares about, changing tiny details back and forth.

Sure, I painstakingly revised my completed novels for years. But my revisions were never trivial, and they always seemed necessary. They still do. After investing so many years into my magnum opus, I refuse to screw up its debut to a potential audience. That would be like investing a million dollars into a business without product-testing. I don’t dare let it go without intense scrutiny.

My thought process looks like this: “There’s a flaw, and if I can see it, so will readers. Better safe than sorry. I’d better fix it. Oh, that fix created another flaw, so I’d better smooth that over. Oh, there’s another flaw. I need to correct them all — every sentence, every word, every scene. Otherwise a percentage of readers will be turned off, and they won’t finish the novel, and then they won’t buy anything else I write because first impressions are hugely important AND THEN MY CAREER IS OVER AND I LOSE EVERYTHING AND I JUST WASTED A DECADE WRITING NOVELS THAT NO ONE WILL READ AND I’D BETTER FIX EVERYTHING!”

The first step is acknowledging the problem. When I admitted to myself that my anxiety might be more irrational than rational — that the label “perfectionist” actually applies to me — I was able to see it as the major detriment that it is.

Now I’m testing out methods to get past it.