Sunday, October 7

Perfection Is The Death Of Creativity

Perfection Is The Death Of Creativity

I can no longer use a word processor to write.

I sit and stare at my computer screen groping for a thought, any thought, to make an appearance but as soon as one does it turns tail and flees as though every movie monster ever conceived wants it as a nice light snack. I can only write if I draft the piece in my blog editor and copy the newly expressed thoughts into my word processing program.

At least, that's what happens when I try to write blog posts using a word processor. At first I thought blog posts, being non-fiction, might require a different process than my fiction. (It's possible, right?) But this problem doesn't only occur when I write non-fiction, it rears it's shaggy, misshapen, slightly mocking, mustard stained head when it comes to my fiction as well.

A few months ago I noticed I couldn't write the first draft of a story sitting at my desk, typing words into my word processor, but I can do it if I scribble them into my journal. Only then, once the words are safely on the page, can I type them into my computer and begin editing.

Odd, right?

I didn't understand why until now. (At least, I think I know.) When I write a blog I take a piece of writing, even a lengthy one, from nothing to completed in around 2 or 3 hours. As a result I have to accept that the piece I'm creating won't be perfect. The result? My thoughts tumble over one another in their eagerness to escape.

Similarly, my journal is, and has always been, a place of no rules where I can write whatever I feel like with no fear of criticism. What I write in my journal is for me, and me alone.

The common thread seems to be that if I'm freed from the idea my writing needs to be perfect that I can write. I feel free to let thoughts flow, unchecked, uncensored, until I come by on the second (third, fourth ...) drafts and make them tuck in their shirttails and shine their shoes.

Well, that's my thought for this Sunday, that creativity may be the price paid by the desire for perfection.

I guess what I've been talking about--my inability to use a word processor for my first draft--is a kind of writers block. Do you have writer's block? Have you ever? Did you, like me, find a workaround?

Edit (Oct 7, 12): I changed the first line from "I can no longer use a computer to write" to the infinitely more accurate "I can no longer use a word processor to write". :-)

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- 12 Writing Tips: How To Be A Writer

Photo credit: Dawn Ashley


  1. I think I know what you mean. it always drives me nuts when I am writing and Word decorates it with tons of red and green underlines. Or, even worse, if Word changes words I misspelled.

    But I'm happy I never had a writer's block that bad. It is more the frequently visit of small blocklings. What helps me most when I'm stuck in a scene is to reread the former pages to get into the mood. If that doesn't work or if there are no pages because I'm at the beginning of something it helps to close my eyes and imagine the scene I want to describe - first only for a secong. What is the most eye-catching thing? That will be written down first. Then I imagine the scene again, this time with more details. What is the mood in it, is there a special color, smell, sound that is part of this special scene?

    With blog posts it is different. For my book reviews I have a certain design (content, what I think of it and the way it is written, my conclusion on the book). But I don't take these blog posts as a real creative work. Other posts or articles I write best if I start collecting catchwords or phrases. The rest somehow happens without much works; if I have the little pieces the article nearly writes itself (though never as fast as I would prefer it).

  2. That always bothered me about MS Word too, especially autocorrect. And thanks for the tips, I'm going to start collecting phrases. :-)

    Thanks for your comment, Frauke.


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