Monday, August 25, 2014

Maybe She Was Born With It...

Does anybody remember those timed skills assessment tests in high school? The ones with hundreds, dare I say, thousands, of O’s on page after page with a few C’s thrown in? Well, I hated them because I rarely finished before the teacher called time. And, since they said they were timed, finishing was important, right? I had a good friend who almost always finished these kinds of tests, and of course I thought she was a lot smarter than I was because of it.


Turns out that even though I didn’t get through with the tests most of the time, I usually found more C’s than she did. So, she was fast and could get done on time, even if she wasn’t that accurate. I, on the other hand, rarely finished, but the sections I got through were pretty close to being accurate.

I really wasn’t the fastest typist in the world either. Why? Because they had to drag me out from under my desk every time I hit the wrong key. Okay, that might be a stretch, but as someone whose natural bent is accuracy over speed, I had to force myself to try to type really, really fast and ignore the typos if I wanted to make a decent grade. Ouch. Typing class. A very traumatic experience.

Fast forward a few years (oh ten, fifteen years… tops) after those high school years and I still struggle when it comes to accuracy over speed. Why can’t I have both? Why can’t I just spit out a blog post in thirty minutes, or a chapter on my novel in a matter of hours? It’s rare that we find someone who can “bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan” and do both equally well, but it seems that we as authors expect it of ourselves. I know I do.

First and foremost, our first priority is to our books, so we either have to improve our productivity or learn when to step back from obligations that overwhelm us. So, what are these other obligations? Blogging, interviews, Q&As, interacting on social media, book signings, conferences, speaking engagements all fall under the "work" of a writer. Those activities take time, and they’re valuable to an author as a marketing tool, but some of us detail-oriented folks find ourselves spending way more time on them than we should when we really need to write.

I’ve known friends who take 8-10 hours to write a blog post, and I'm amazed when someone can just whip one out in a matter of minutes. I personally took several hours to write a four sentence endorsement. I was in a hotel room in St. Louis (and I’ll be BACK there in a few weeks…ACFW, here we come!) at the time with another author. She couldn’t believe it was taking me so long to write a measly four sentences, but I wanted that endorsement to be just right…memorable. Finally, it clicked and I was able to send it off. Otherwise, I guess I’d still be sitting there scribbling away.

I don’t know all the answers for getting all the “writerly” tasks done on time, and done well, but a few of the Seekers and I have a few tips for the detail-oriented among us that might help us all up our game.

Missy Tippens, a goal-oriented Seeker, said, “I'm a natural perfectionist who plots and plans and frets before I ever start. But I've had to try to learn to limit that tendency because it really slows me down. I'm trying to force myself to jump in and get going. Especially for proposals, figuring once I make the sale I can spend more time to get the story exactly the way I want it.”

First, if you’re detail-oriented, don’t wait until the last minute and pull an all-nighter like a ninth-grader writing her first term paper. Write out the rough-draft of your blog, interview, answer that Q&A, work on that speech you're scheduled to give to the lady’s luncheon in two months. Just get it out there, as messy as it is. The sooner, the better. The old saying of “you can’t fix a blank page” applies to extra-curricular writing tasks as much as it does to your contracted novel.

Julie Lessman says, “HA!  I’m “born with it,” all right — a CDQ (caffeinated drama queen) personality that also suffers from MSD (Martha Stewart Disease). Which means I’m a “detail-oriented perfectionist” who has actually piped dinner guest’s initials in their twice-baked potato — now that’s true anality!  Which is why I generally only write one book a year. BUT … I know I am capable of “fast and furious” because I wrote my 2nd book, A Passion Redeemed (580 pages) in one month (two months working part-time, actually, which full time would be one month), so I have it in me. I just wish it would come out a little more often … :)”

Julie has the passion and the perfectionist part down pat, and she can be fast-and-furious when the need arises. Hopefully she’ll join us today and share her secret for how she accomplished all that in two months!

I love this answer from Mary Connealy, who seems to be on the opposite end of the spectrum: a fast-and-furious writer who gets things done at warp speed. (Mary has been known to email me and ask about this or that deadline, or for a copy of some email that she knows I kept, so I know of whence I speak.)

Mary says, “I am, honestly, utterly disorganized. I am a woman who can't find the clothes she planned to wear, or realizes they're in the wash. I forget the perfect pair of earrings purchased specifically for this [or that] outfit. I get asked to do some simple thing and it bounces off my brain and into the stratosphere. It's some kind of learning disability. (I'm saying that to keep from having to take any responsibility)

But when it comes to writing, none of this seems to apply. I don't have to fight my nature. I don't forget or ignore. I get my books done ahead of time, every time. Same with revisions and galley edits. I put in the time daily, always, to get my 1000 words written. The only reason I can figure out that I'm so different with my writing than EVERY OTHER ASPECT OF MY LIFE is simply that......I love it.

I love writing. I love being published. I never, ever, ever get over being HONORED that a publisher has advanced money to me and signed a contract with me. This is my dream come true and I am so grateful it happened and I simple LOVE IT!”

From the feedback from these Seekers, and what I know about myself, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a detail-oriented perfectionist’s greatest stumbling block is getting embroiled in a project (research, balancing the checkbook, reading/editing a blog post, etc.) and surfacing hours later, and realizing that you just spent a whole day researching the life of a gnat and you're not even writing about gnats!

The second problem for perfectionists is fear which manifests itself in procrastination. The savvy author who’s been around for a while doesn’t let fear rule them and they do as Missy said, they start and they keep going--early and often. 

The biggest hurtle for the fast-and-furious person who races to the finish line (and I’m guessing here since I am NOT this person!) might be the time it takes to polish their projects after the fact. And researching gnats because they failed to do it first. Please, people, get your gnat research in order!

We all come to the table with different skill sets, and each of us have to figure out our own way to get everything done, but the answers I received from the Seekers taught me one thing—actually, I already knew it—but their answers just reminded my head what my heart already knew...

The Seekers and friends might not have been born with it, but baby, we've got it in spades.

What is it?

It is passion, determination, and grit to go out of their comfort zone and get the job done no matter what it takes.

Oh, and my friend from high school? She ended up managing a deli at a very busy grocery store and I ended up in computer science and crunching numbers. Appropriate, huh? Pam Hillman lives and writes in Mississippi. The Evergreen Bride (White Christmas Brides), coming soon!


Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

"...a detail-oriented perfectionist’s greatest stumbling block is getting embroiled in a project (research, balancing the checkbook, reading/editing a blog post, etc.) and surfacing hours later, and realizing that you just spent a whole day researching the life of a gnat and you're not even writing about gnats!"

HAHAHA! That made me laugh! So true.

I have a file I keep that has book titles, and when I wrote what, including dates. My last book I wrote 20K words in four days (deadline!). The book I'm on now, I've written 10K in two weeks. Ugh. This one needs so much more research that I'm stuck in Googleland most of the time.

Great post and it made me feel not so crazy.

Melissa Jagears said...

Fear equals procrastination, I have those two in spades all right....

Cindy W. said...

"The second problem for perfectionists is fear which manifests itself in procrastination. " Wow. Does that ring true with me.

Thank you for the post Pam!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pam, you could be right about the perfectionists' downfall.

Heaven knows I know nothing about it, because it doesn't apply in upstate, but that makes sense.

I believe people are born with the talent or desire. The wisdom to listen to the story as it unfolds and get your butt in a chair and keep it there is different. I think that's work ethic, and some of my more cerebral friends and family are pretty sure they're lofted above the norm of everyday writing.....

But I love that everyday people like you and me read the stuff we write!!!! This is huge to me, being of the "race that knows Joseph" and I'll champion that 'til the end of my days.

I love heartfelt, feel good books that transport me to happy endings.

Happy to be in your awesome company, Miss Pam!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

What do we fear in writing?

That it's not good enough? That we're not smart enough?

Why do authors tend to be head cases? Where do our insecurities come from?

Just thinking out loud... I study a story mentally in my head before I write it. I actually see it before I start it, and that helps me build the middle...

So where does fear come into this? I'm honestly wondering.

Ruthy (Bossy People Fear Nothing But Lack of Cake)

Kav said...

What an interesting post -- and it ties in with one of the links from a WE edition. About how nothing will ever be perfect enough so we need to stop striving for that all too elusive perfectionism and just produce words.

So looking forward to these Seeker Christimas novellas on the horizon. Now that will be perfection. Guaranteed.

Cara Lynn James said...

I'm the kind of writer who loves research. I'd probably find even gnats interesting. I love words and how to arrange and rearrange sentences. Needless to say, I'm not fast -- unless I have to be.

I envy the Marys of the world.

Cindy Regnier said...

From a perfectionist who gets this - thanks Pam!

Elaine Manders said...

Thanks, Pam. I struggle with perfectionism. Funny but I was just researching gnats. Since I grew up below the gnat line, I was afraid they didn't exist in my wip setting. Didn't have to worry. Gnats are found all over the world.

Jackie said...

Fear and procrastination! That'll preach and you did a great job today.

Thanks for sharing!

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Pam~I am such a perfectionist/procrastinator/gnat researcher I even read all the checkbook entries in your post picture and got hung up on the "GARBAGE" entry, she pays for garbage? haha, like I said gnat researcher in motion!

So much of what you say in this post is applicable to life in general. I'm such a perfectionist that if I can't do something very well, I'd rather not do it at all. Fear of being judged not good enough, or smart enough or not willing to invest the time required, etc, etc, etc. Fear can be such a paralyzing thing. Like Missy I stress before I even start instead of just jumping in.

Over the last few years I've been learning to be more balanced in my expectations of myself. Sometimes good enough is just that, good enough.

I agree with Virgina, your post made me feel less crazy today, thanks I needed that!

Mary Connealy said...

I once set out to research a Civil War battle and about two hours later surfaced from reaching all about albino baby animals. Which are so stinking cute btw.

How does that happen?

Mary Connealy said...

But I don't let stuff like that stop me from doing my writing of course!

Pam Hillman said...

Virginia, so happy to have you here with me at the funny farm! If you're not crazy, I'm not crazy, so there!

We are both perfectly fine! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Melissa, fear is such a horrible disease, isn't it? Fear that that sentence, that paragraph is not going to be as good as we know it needs to be.

As hard as it is, I've found that if I just write the scene, warts and all, then come back and play with it the next day, and the next, and the next if needed, it gets better and better.

I can't do that if I'm up against a razorsharp deadline wire.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well said, Pam, and I am still mulling it before I declare which camp I am in.

Pam Hillman said...

Cindy, for me that's a big ol' honkin' cowbell at that!

Jeanne T said...

Great post, Pam! I am very organized, but when life gets busy, things slip through the cracks. I am a perfectionist in some things as well. It's something I'm trying to be careful about because my kids pick up this tendency from my husband and me. I'm learning to let some things go, but not all. :) When it comes to writing, I love the fast draft and creating. I'm learning to let it be messy.

With my current WIP, I already know there are major rewrites in the works. And I'm okay with that. :)

Pam Hillman said...

We need breakfast. This is grab and go because it's Monday and we all have a LOT to do today.

Coffee, tea, juice, homemade biscuits with your choice of sausage, bacon, ham, or egg from the little convenience store in my neck of the woods called "Duett's". Duett's makes the flakiest, buttery-est biscuits you'll ever eat. You've gotta try one. They are delicious!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yum What a great breakfast Pam, and there comes a problem. I'd rather go for the breakfast than work. LOL But like Mary said, the writing is fun.

I'm definitely not a perfectionist, but I can procrastinate or get side-tracked by a gnat or research of any kind.

Marianne Barkman said...

gReat post and great comments. Me? I fear a lot of things, and I am really,really good at procrastinating. One of my fears is that if writers procrastinate, where will I get my good books, so I can procrastinate?

Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy, I'm so glad you asked about where the fear comes from.

We probably need a certified shrink in here, but since it's just ME today, I think this fear comes on gradually after they've (we've) been writing for a while.

Back when I first started writing, I wrote without any rules, any expectations (other than my own). Like a child, I had my sandbox and I was happy building sand castles. It didn't matter that they were lopsided and ugly, that the characters weren't all that believable, that the plot had holes you could drive a Tonka through. I was happy playing and building and dreaming.

But as we grow as writers, we realize that there's a lot more to this writing gig than building lopsided stories out of sand. We realize they actually have to stand up to the scrutiny of contest judges, readers, editors and agents, and that all of them aren't going to pat us on the head and tell us "good job" just because they think we're adorable.

So, we rip apart the first sand castle, rebuild it and again and again and again. Sometimes a particularly vicious storm (too-stupid-to-live heroine, anyone?) comes along and really rips it apart and we have work really hard to salvage it.

The savvy author grows from this and becomes more intentional about their writing, the foundation of their sand castle (story) and creates a better one the next time, and the next, and the next.

BUT that change doesn't come without a price. They either embrace the challenge (wow, this wasn't as easy as I thought it was) or the let fear rule them.

And fear can be as simple as not writing that very first paragraph because we're so afraid it's not going to be good enough.

But do it anyway. Consider your first draft building sand castles, and allow yourself plenty of time to fortify them.

Pam Hillman said...

I wonder is the writing world heavily populated with perfectionists?

Also, for lack of a better word, I labeled the opposite side of the coin, a "fast-and-furious" writer, or for something a little more familiar, let's call it the Mary Ruth writer. :)

I remember years ago, Cheryl Wyatt's self-described way of writing a first draft was to just throw up on the page. A literal mess of scenes, words, ideas.

I'm afraid trying to clean that up would paralyze me about as much as trying to create perfection from the get-go.

Maybe there are extremes on both end of the spectrum. I'm learning to do both. Just write without striving for perfection, then polish up to a certain point, then write messy, polish, write messy, polish.

My wip is polished about 60% way through, plot in the next 30% is solid, but the details need more polish, then the final 10% is in that just throw it up there stage. Very messy.

And actually, I've already shoved the first attempt in the garbage can and started over on that section.

But I'm not afraid to throw it out there on the page.

A contract and a deadline is a great motivator even for a perfectionist!

Pam Hillman said...

Cindy, another perfectionist. We will overcome this! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Elaine, really??? LOL

I picked something that I was sure NO one had ever had the need to research, and look what happens???

And...see, that's the kind of thing a perfectionist would worry about when writing a blog post, for heaven's sake.

Too funny!

Pam Hillman said...

Jackie, you too? Oh my!

Okay, Tracey, you have me beat! I must admit that I never looked at the details of the checkbook picture.

Whoot! I have broken my chains and now hand the title to Tracey Hagwood, Seekerville's reigning Queen of Perfectionism!

Janet Dean said...

Pam, not that it's a surprise to anyone, but I don't write a fast first draft. I can't seem to keep moving forward when something I've written stops me. Still, putting my butt in chair does produce even with revising as I go. The sad truth, I still have a lot of revising to do when I'm finished.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, I think the fear comes from the concern that the book will disappoint.


Pam Hillman said...

"If I can't do something very well, I'd rather not do it at all. Fear of being judged not good enough, or smart enough or not willing to invest the time required..."

Wow, yes, Tracey, well said. And since what one reader loves, another hates, writing is SO subjective, this feeling can be magnified ten-fold.

But if we have the dream, the passion, and the determination to power through, we can overcome this paralyzing fear. We will. Be brave!

Tracey Hagwood said...

Just jumped over to the cafe to read Jan's wonderful post.

Haha Pam, more like Head Gnat Reasearcher with my nose stuck in a book somewhere. I get lost down rabbit trails all the time. A wealth of useless information floating around in my head.

I'm so looking forward to your Christmas book!

Janet Dean said...

Elaine, I'm grinning that you were actually researching gnats! Pam probably thought she was being funny.


Pam Hillman said...

Rabbit trails abound in research, Mary. I'm not sure if it's because we're so easily distracted, or...

An aside, if I'm a perfectionist, why am I so easily distracted? Very confusing, that...

Hmmm, where was I? Oh, I'm not sure if it's because we're so easily distracted or if it's our subconscious that's procrastinating writing our own story, so we read something someone else has already written and taken 45 drafts to perfect.

Pam Hillman said...

Tina, I'm not sure what you were born with, but can I take a stab at it? I'm going to say detail-oriented perfectionist. Nurse? Librarian? Ex-Army?

But there's something there (I can't put my finger on it), a drill instructor mentality that gives you the guts and determination to "plan the work and work the plan" as Ruthy says.

Whether you were born with it, or developed it through the school of hard knocks, you've got it, friend, and you guard it well.

Newsflash: That's one thing we haven't mentioned up to now. How adversity, circumstances, sheer willpower can put in some of us the ability to DO regardless.

Julie Lessman said...

PAMMY SAID: "I personally took several hours to write a four sentence endorsement."

OH. MY. GOSH!!!! We are related!!! I have written over 70 endorsements and twice as many reviews over the last few years, and I labor over each and every one because like you, Pammy, I want to give my best to that person.

Which is why I am no longer doing endorsements for a while except for very few because the truth is I could have had at least 1-2 books written in the time it took me.

I am SO grateful to God that He showed me that I actually COULD write a book in one month and love it, as He did with A Passion Redeemed because that showed me it WAS possible for me to write fast and furious. It was actually during the throes of penning the last few chapters of that book that my family coined the phrase "Mom's gone into Zombie state," because I would literally write till 5:00 AM in the morning.

What motivated me on that particular book? This is going to sound silly, but I loved the romance between those two characters SO much that I literally couldn't stay away until I wrote the last page. So motivation was key for me with that book. Which is why setting a goal (like we do in NANOWRIMO) is KEY.

The second key is NOT EDITING as you go and NOT rereading anything but the last few pages you wrote to get you back into the story.

So as a anal perfectionist, I am in the process of learning how to rewire how I do things and just write the freakin' book. :)


Pam Hillman said...

Jeanne, this is the first step to recovery. Just writing, knowing you can fix it. Yes, that's the ticket.

I've learned to totally ignore the imperfections around the house. When I'm no deadline, those things take a backseat.

Another thing that I didn't include in today's post. Sandra mentioned making lists. Lists can be critical to hold us accountable to priorities. Stick to the priorities and get on track to get the job done.

Vince said...

Hi Pam:

Love this topic! Great post! As I read each paragraph quotes kept popping into my head. Let me show you the thoughts that your words inspired during the short time I spent reading your post this morning. These quotes are in the order that they came as I moved deeper into your post.

“Excessive attention to detail is actually proactive procrastination. It is a socially acceptable way of delaying rejection.”

“Most people come to perfectionism after ‘the dog ate my homework stops working’.”

“It’s not that you are slow. You just don’t know how to do it right yet. Once you know how to do it, you’ll be amazed how much faster you have become.”

“The greatest way to make your fears a reality is to dwell on them.”

The Lessman Lesson: "Think of the investment disclosure that is made in advertising mutual funds: past performance is no guarantee of future results. In other words, just because it took thirty years to develop and perfect the characters, plot, and setting in your first book, does not mean it will take thirty years to write the sequel.”

“Excessive research is the writing equivalent of politicians who wrap themselves in the American flag.”

“Don’t believe any claims of perfectionism until you’ve seen the person’s kitchen cabinets.”

Then the comments:

“Ruthy (Bossy People Fear Nothing But Lack of Cake)

There is something to this Ruthism. When I was in basic training in the Air Force, a ‘slick’ without even one stripe, I found I could walk all over the base if I had a clipboard with the words ‘Air Police’ written large enough to fill the back of the clipboard and if I walked quickly with purpose. Even people of rank would avoid me! It seems that all you have to do is look bossy!

Pam: I didn’t know you live in Mississippi. Are you near Tupelo? I’ll be visiting for a day and a half at the start of next month. Linda and I would love to come to a book signing.

Julie Lessman said...

PAMMY ALSO SAID: "Fear equals procrastination."


I am one of the most confident people I know on the planet, but I've discovered that when it comes to my writing, I am full of fear, EVEN THOUGH I love how I write. This confuses my husband who doesn't understand why I let fear (which translates into procrastination by futzing with other things like email, social media, etc.) stand in the way of something I truly love to do.

That's why I have always liked Joyce Meyer's quote that says, "Do it afraid," because the truth is the only way the fear will leave is if we confront it head-on without delay every single time, something I'm learning the hard way, but AM learning, thank God!!

I don't give a rat's behind what most people think of me as a person because I like who I am and that's where my confidence lies. But when it comes to my writing??? YIKES ... suddenly I'm an approval-starved person on a freakin' roller-coaster, a dilemma that almost made me quit writing altogether.

Trust me, I've learned to stay far, far away from roller-coasters now. :)


Pam Hillman said...

Marianne, lol. Well, ladies, Marianne has given us our marching orders. No more procrastination!

Vince said...

Hi Pam:

Tests like you mention in the quote below:

“Turns out that even though I didn’t get through with the tests most of the time, I usually found more C’s than she did.”

are often more about methodology than speed or skill. When I look at that O and C test my first thought is “What is the best methodology for doing this exercise?” Within seconds I came up with using a piece of paper to cover the line of Os I was looking at and moving it to the right to expose one O at a time. This way my eye is looking at only a single O at a time. If you are only looking at one O, it is hard to get it wrong. With the right methodology, one should be able to go thorugh all five lines of Os in about 5 to 6 seconds with 100% accuracy.

Often in life success is not about skill, speed, or perfectionism. It is about how you go about doing it! With writing it is about learning how to do the hundreds of right things by habit. Once you can do this, you get really fast.

A famous lady once said there is no right way to write a book but here’s the catch: there are 10,000 wrong ways to write a book. It is a matter of doing as many of the right things right by habit as possible. I am at this stage when writing nonfiction. However, I’m not even close to doing this yet in fiction.


BTW: I wrote the “Lessman Lesson” long before Julie wrote her comment above.

Pam Hillman said...

“Don’t believe any claims of perfectionism until you’ve seen the person’s kitchen cabinets.”

Uh oh. I have been found out. :)

Vince, love all the quotes: They are spot on!! And Air Police? lol I have a friend that can pull off the official look so well. I just follow along behind like her assistant, which actually makes her look even more official, so it works for both of us. lol

Alas, I live about 3 hours south of Tupelo. Otherwise, it would be great fun to meet you and Linda. Enjoy your trip!

Pam Hillman said...

Okay, peeps, I have procrastinated (Is playing hostess in Seekerville really procrastinating?) long enough.

Going dark for a while to write. Deadline looms! Keep chatting and I'll be back later.

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE SAID: "The Lessman Lesson: "Think of the investment disclosure that is made in advertising mutual funds: past performance is no guarantee of future results. In other words, just because it took thirty years to develop and perfect the characters, plot, and setting in your first book, does not mean it will take thirty years to write the sequel.”


VINCE ALSO SAID: "Don’t believe any claims of perfectionism until you’ve seen the person’s kitchen cabinets.”

LOL ... mmm, maybe I'm NOT the perfectionist I thought I was ... ;)

Actually, since we had our house on the market recently, my kitchen cabinets are not only near spotless, but decluttered and almost empty, with glasses/cups, etc. arranged beautifully. :)


Mary Connealy said...

btw I don't remember that C test.
HOWEVER--I was always one of those people who tested well.

It was a consternation to my mother who would go to parent-teachers conferences and be told, "Mary is not working up to her potential."

She'd come home and say, "You did so well on the assessment tests. Surely you can get better grades."

I tried so hard to explain to her that I was working OVER my potential on the tests and doing exactly what I was capable of on the class work.

She always remained skeptical.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Great post! I'm sorta in the middle. I'm not terribly fast or slow, but when I'm done - I'm done. I don't do drafts.

I don't get revisions either - so I guess I must be doing something sorta right.

Myra Johnson said...

Fun post, PAM! Interesting to get other writers' takes on the slow/speedy spectrum. I never know what kind of day it's going to be. I could sit down and write 2-3K in an afternoon. Or I might struggle to squeak out 1K in the same amount of time.

And I'm really bad about getting it (close to) right the first time. As Janet said, if something stops me, I can't progress until I figure it out. Like, if I need a research fact. I am incapable of typing XXX and moving on with the intention of looking it up later. Because WHAT IF WHATEVER I FIND OUT TOTALLY MESSES WITH MY PLOT????

And BTW, most (not all) of my kitchen cupboards are very organized. I draw the line at Tupperware. Who can keep all those containers and lids straightened out????

Mary Connealy said...

Also, in your test example of C and O...I found the C almost immediately.

Again with the testing skills.....

Now if I could just remember where I left my glasses.

Connie Queen said...

Good morning Seekerville.

I'm definitely not a perfectionist. If there was any doubt when you looked in my kitchen cabinets, check out our bedroom. I'd never allow my kids to pile up junk in their rooms like mine. Shameful.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle of Mary and a perfectionist.

DebH said...

Ruthy said: Why do authors tend to be head cases? Where do our insecurities come from?

So where does fear come into this? I'm honestly wondering.

My take? It comes from our temperment types.

Ruthy, you're like my mom - choleric: a go get 'em, "darn the torpedoes...full speed ahead" person. which is why you have no idea where the fear comes from. you just see it and think "well, THAT's counter-productive" and plow over it.

me? primarily melancholy: uber creative and self-destructive in nature (fear and perfectionism can be a bit destructive, yes?) one sort of gets led by feelings, muses... whatever instead of making plans.

the phlematics in life tend to be more diplomatic and perhaps perfectionism slips in there, not wanting to "rock the boat".

sanquines are sociable and fun loving, so perhaps perfectionism isn't as much a problem there. they'd probably want to get things done so people can have fun reading what they've written.

hmmm, all this in a lame attempt to answer Ruthy's "Huh?" question. it's what came to mind when I read her comment.

as for the post. great stuff to ponder. i'm hoping to graduate to having IT more often than not.

loved Vince's quotes. sometimes reading comments can be as instructional as the posts.

DebH said...

um, that was supposed to be phlegmatic, not phlematic... *sighing over typos*

Walt Mussell said...

I love research so I try to write myself notes in the manuscript. (e.g. Check life history of gnats.)

My biggest fear, and it happens, is that I go off schedule and don't write for an extended period. I get very little time and have to take advantage if it daily.

Natalie Monk said...

Thank you for this post, Pam! I'm an undercover perfectionist. I've been known to straighten picture frames in someone else's house if they're not looking. ;)

I'd guess perfectionism takes up 65% of my would-be writing time, because I procrastinate, dreading how long the project will take me if I do it "right." Ugh.

Thanks for letting us know we're not the only ones!

Janet Dean said...

Vince, Love your quotes.

There's never a time when we know everything about writing a book or if we do, I sure forget to do what I know.


Pam Hillman said...

I'm back, taking a lunch break. I would share my lunch with you, but I don't think it's very professional to share leftovers in public, even if they are from our homecoming dinner at church yesterday. So, let's just back up 24 hours and I'll give the gist of the menu from YESTERDAY and you can time-travel back to it...

Hawaiian chicken and gnoche (my first, and it was yummy!)
Chicken pot pie
string beans
Mexican cornbread
Chicken spaghetti
Pork roast
Chicken dressing
Chicken dumplings
Fruit platter
Cornbread salad
pork chops
and more....!

And desserts...
Coconut cake
Italian cream cake
Melba's Delight (butterscotch pudding/whipped topping, crunchy crust w/pecans)
Peanut butter pies
Coconut, caramel, chess pies
Blueberry cheesecake the size of Manhattan!
Ice cream cake

So, there you have it. Southern country potluck followed by gospel singing. And it was HOT! Thank the good Lord for A/C!

Dig in!

Pam Hillman said...

Sherri, I'm with you there. I'm not fast or slow, necessarily, but I come to a crawl when I hit a major snag that completely throws the plot out of kilter.

That's where I've been for about a week now. And come to think of it, that's about how long I stagnated on the last book!

The good news is that in the last two hours, I came up with a twist that will fix this problem, and I think I can now wrap it up.

Choirs of Angels are singing! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Myra and Connie, like I said, I think I swing back and forth depending on the nature of what I'm doing and how well I understand the project.

Pam Hillman said...

DebH, thank you for the personality types. I think I'm a melancholoy/phlegmatic cross.

My muse wars with my desire to plan.

Oh boy.

Pam Hillman said...

Well, Walt, the good news is that you can mark gnat research off your list.

Just see Elaine instead! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Oh my goodness, Natalie. You, too? (ie. picture frames). I haven't done it, but I have SO wanted to!!!

But I have (completely unaware) unstapled a stack of papers, lined them up neatly and restapled them while the co-worked who'd stapled them sat beside my desk talking. When I was done, he asked why I did that. "What?" lol

Well, they were CROOKED, you dork!

He was a good sport about it. ;)

Debby Giusti said...

Pam, great post. An interesting subject and one that holds me by the throat. I am a perfectionist and often delay jumping into a book until I see the entire story.

At least, that was my old technique. Now I'm trying to increase my production and leap boldly into the story even when I don't have it all figured out.

I do think the speedy writer doesn't worry as much about little problems in the story. Or perhaps that's how I rationalize their speed and my tortoise walk to completion.

Is their final copy less clean? I'm not sure and certainly don't want to imply that their manuscripts wouldn't get the Grammar Queen's stamp of approval. I'm just musing.

Speaking of...I'm convinced GQ's submissions are perfect in every detail.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who's a perfectionist to the point of slowing me down.

What's funny, though, is you'd never in a million years think I'm a perfectionist by looking at my house! LOL It's always cluttered.

Pam Hillman said...

Debby, we can only explain our own methods, sometimes, can't we?

Apparently, all's well that ends well. I write, edit, write, edit, write, edit x 20 chapters until I'm done.

A speedy author writes, writes, writes THEN edits, edits, edits x 20 chapters, (yes?) so maybe the total time/effort is the same, but just organized differently.

Hmmm, going back to the title of this post... "Maybe She Was Born With" it wouldn't be referring to the gray hair we ALL get wrestling a plot to the ground, no matter the type writer we are!

Pam Hillman said...

Yes, but Missy, we have much more important things to do.

Housework falls under the category of procrastination brought on by fear. I know I can't make it perfect so fear of failure causes me to ignore it.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Vince said...

Hi Julie:

I just have to know if you deliberately wrote your last comment to slip a little irony by all of us.

Within seconds of writing:

VINCE ALSO SAID: "Don’t believe any claims of perfectionism until you’ve seen the person’s kitchen cabinets.”

LOL ... mmm, maybe I'm NOT the perfectionist I thought I was ... ;)

You walked back your claim of not being the perfectionist you thought you were with this comment:

”Actually, since we had our house on the market recently, my kitchen cabinets are not only near spotless, but decluttered and almost empty, with glasses/cups, etc. arranged beautifully. :)”

I think that is some pretty sneaky irony to pull on a bunch of writers.

One definition of irony: “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result; an event or result marked by such incongruity.”

Here’s the tie-breaker: do you alphabetize the placement of the food items in your kitchen cabinets? If you do, you are a perfectionist par excellence.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'm reading the fears....

Well, it's interesting from my perspective, and that's curious. Janet says the fear comes from the concern about disappointing and I think we all worry that an editor or agent will think our stuff is trivial or weak or poorly done. It's a kick in the head when someone says they need a do-over, right????

I always get this feeling that if I'm happy with it at the end, it can't be terrible. So is that me being stuck on myself or me being confident?

And yes, I've had to completely rewrite a couple of books, but again: Was that the book being wrong/bad or a difference of vision and opinion? I'm not sure, but in the end if I'm being paid to produce a certain book, that's my goal... and I love getting paid!!!!

Lyndee H said...

Thanks for the post, Pam. I have always been a linear writer, but lately I've been given passages out of order. It's weirdly unsettling. Against my grain. Against my perfectionist thinking.

I've been forced to rethink my method. After all, it's not reasonable to waste words when they come so easily, just because they are 'out of order.'

Maybe they are in order!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Laughing at Vince's remark because it's so true. Carrying an air of confidence opens a lot of doors.

Part of it is God-given. The other part is salesmanship. If you believe in your product, sell it!

And there's a lot of the wisdom of salesmanship in bookselling. You need to find the right match. Author/editor, author/audience, author/agent. It's like selling houses or wedding gowns or cars...


You're never going to convince someone lukewarm on your work to take a chance on you. A guy who's dying to drive a muscle Jeep isn't going to be talked into an Elantra. And a woman who looks to-die-for marvelous in a princess gown isn't likely to switch to a mermaid because you nailed it the first time!

It all comes down to numbers... and matching.

Chill N said...

Pam Hillman said...

But as we grow as writers, we realize that there's a lot more to this writing gig than building lopsided stories out of sand. We realize they actually have to stand up to the scrutiny of contest judges, readers, editors and agents, and that all of them aren't going to pat us on the head and tell us "good job" just because they think we're adorable.

As if the post wasn't wonderful enough, I found this gem in the comments.

You've given me so much to think about, Pam. Why is it I don't expect as high a standard of myself in other areas of life as I do in my writing? Hmm. Must go ponder ... while I research 1880s cigarette cards and cigars. I wonder if they ever had gnats in the cigar boxes ...

Nancy C

Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy, up until this point, I've been very happy with the books I've turned in and my revisions have been fairly easy compared to some.

I'm not saying I didn't expect revisions, but I thought the work was clean enough that I didn't dread the revisions overmuch. And I've been blessed with 3 different copy editors that have the same vision for my stories as I do.

Now, if we look on the other side of that coin, and I receive huge push back from a copy editor telling me the entire story is falling apart and completely has to be reworked, then that's likely to make me more nervous the next time around.

So, my confidence could take a hit, but I know what a solid book reads like, feels like, so I'd chalk a major rewrite up to the vision the editors had for that particular book.

And I'd like to hope that such an experience wouldn't make me nervous when I turned in my next project, but I imagine the thought would be there.

Pam Hillman said...

Lyndee, I'm very linear in my writing although I did write parts of Stealing Jake out of order.

Like you, it's not my favorite method. But we do what we have to do, don't we?

Keep at it. Eventually all those out-of-order scenes will fall into place for you!

Pam Hillman said...

Nancy, our writing has to be top notch. Other than that, everybody things writers are a bit eccentric and weird, so we can have the messy house, yard, sloppy clothes and blame it on the time we spend writing.

Works for me!

And apparently for my long-suffering husband!

Becke said...

Love reading the multiple perspectives on this. Although I'm not as fast as I used to be, I would still categorize myself as fast and furious. The payoff for me is that I get a high upon completion of any task.

The bad news is I'm never satisfied with the end result so I could revise FOREVER.
I guess there's no good way. We all just have a way. :0)

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, I like that idea. I think you're right that we go into our heads and get fearful that we're not good enough, when we should be telling ourselves it's just a difference of vision for that particular story.

That's my new mantra! :)

Pam Hillman said...

I guess there's no good way. We all just have a way. :0)

So true, Becke.

Pam Hillman said...

Missy, we can always keep the other version for something else. :)

Audra Harders said...

Oh Pam, I'm with you. I can struggle for hours over an endorsement or review. The words simply do not flow!

This is a great post, especially as a reminder that we're not alone in our struggles. I wish I had your attention to detail, Missy's perfectionist tendencies, Mary's speed, and Julie's ooo-la-la!

But I don't. I'm just plain, ol' Audra. But that's okay. I'm too tired to be anyone else, LOL! Besides, every now and then, the good Lord blesses me with a flash of genius and I'm energized all over again.

I live for those moments :)

Edwina said...


Me thinks you've been spying on me!
Thanks for a great post

DiAnn said...

Pam, I'm a perfectionist who writes by the seat-of-my-pants. Figure that one out!
Great post!

Sandy Smith said...

Sorry I'm a day late in responding to this post. I have not been on here for a few days. But this really spoke to me as I have the worst time just getting started on my writing and not thinking it needs to be perfectly written from the beginning.

Gay Lewis said...

To be perfect every time in each circumstance is not possible. Why do we waste time, energy, and worry over the best efforts we've put forth? I wish I didn't. Also wish I didn't procrastinate. Enjoyed all the comments.

Melanie Dickerson said...

My problem is that I want to ruminate on a story for a long time, for several months at least, before I ever start writing it. I want to think and think and think about how to make the story perfect and THEN write it. But if I want to write more than one story per year--and I do!!!--then I can't be doing that. Something I've found that can take the place of months of rumination is to brainstorm with a friend. This works best when you take them on a long trip and they can't escape you and you talk about your story with them for HOURS! And then you're ready to write! Hahaha! I'm sort of kidding. But not really.

And I'm like Mary. I am totally disorganized. It doesn't help me to write notes because I can never ever find them if I actually decide to look back over them, which I rarely do. And writing an outline? Are you kidding me? That just doesn't work for me.

Pam Hillman said...

Ladies, notifications for comments after Monday went into my spam folder. Yikes! Sorry about that! :)

Audra, maybe we need to write by committee, eh? Now, wouldn't that be something? lol

Edwina, I'm beginning to think there are a lot of us in the same boat. Sigh!

Pam Hillman said...

DiAnn, 48 hours later, I'm still trying to work that out! Hmmm... :)

Sandy, you are NOT alone. I know it's really hard, but just write for the sheer joy of it. Just thirty minutes every day, just let yourself and your writing go. Be free! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Gay, so well said. Thank you for sharing!

Well, Melanie, do I have a solution for you!!! ROAD TRIP!!! :) Wouldn't that just be the coolest thing ever? A whole week in the car with 3-4 friends, talking and brainstorming about writing.

Very Thelma and Louise'ish.

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Pam.