Recognizing perfectionism

I had a realization yesterday morning and it’s led me to some serious soul-searching. My 12-month 1,180,000 word challenge is quite possibly—probably, in fact—a manifestation of perfectionism.

I’ve been upfront with the fact that I suffer from repeated bouts of perfectionism, and I don’t always realize when I’ve let it creep back into my life.

But yesterday, I started to realize that the only reason this plan even exists is because I spend a lot of time imagining the awesome way I’ll feel if I write all those books right now, if I can find the perfect system so I can write a perfect number of words every day, all so I can design a perfect release schedule for the many series I have going.

I do not need to write that many books in 12 months.

Not only that, but this goal is so far from realistic for me that I’m not sure it’s even part of my universe.

To reach this goal, I’ll have to write 5 times my current average daily word count. FIVE TIMES.

Every single day.

But perfectionism keeps me re-figuring my calculations at every turn, trying to find a way to do the impossible, because it fits some ideal I’ve come to worship. As if I’m just not doing enough, as if I’m a loser if I can’t write all the books in all the series, and write them damn quick, too. Because I should be able to do it, because it’s so reasonable if I just consider the numbers.

Bullshit.

This all started because I do want to write a lot of books in the series I have going, and the unfortunate truth is that at my current speeds it’ll take me 3.5 years to write them. But I also want to write other things, and I definitely don’t want to wait 3.5 years to start writing those things.

But realism never has been one of my strengths, and neither has delaying gratification.

That was the crack that let perfectionism sneak in. What if I could write this many words? What if I could follow this schedule? What if I could double, triple, no, quadruple my word counts? What if, what if, what if.

I’ve set myself up for failure, trying to reach for some ideal. And I’m failing under the pressure. I’m losing my enjoyment of writing.

I’m going to fix this, now that I’ve recognized what’s going on

I’ve stopped the schedule experiment.

I’m ending the push for 1,180,000 words in 12 months. I studied the list of books I want to write and decided I need to focus on only a few series instead of trying to do everything.

It’s impossible. I can’t do everything, not in the time frame I want.

I love all the series I write, I really do, so I picked based on reader interest and money. I settled on 3 series, plus the pen name series. I picked the pen name series not because of reader interest and money but because of potential for those things. Also, if I give up that series, the pen name is dead, and I don’t want that. Not yet. I want to finish that experiment.

That’s not to say I’m not still setting the bar high. I want to release a book every month for my main name, and a book every 3 months for my pen name. For me, that comes to 2,192 words a day.

To be clear, at least to myself, it’s not a daily quota. It’s a goal.

2,000 one day and 2,400 the next will work fine. :)

It’s possible I’m fooling myself, still. 2,192 is still almost 3.5 times my current average daily word count. I’ll have to take that chance. I need to step up to another level in my earnings, and I can’t do that being satisfied with the number of words I’m currently writing each day.

I debated this goal, wondering why this feels necessary, wondering if I was just replacing one unrealistic goal with another, less obviously unrealistic goal, but decided in the end that I have good and valid reasons for not eschewing goals altogether. I can’t expect to get off the income plateau I’m on if I just keep releasing books at my current pace. Growth and improvement are important and having a big goal doesn’t have to mean I’m succumbing to perfectionism. This plan is a stretch, no doubt, but it isn’t grandiose in the same way as my plan to write 1,180,000 words a year.

One reason for that is because I’ll only be focusing on 4 series going forward. The consequences for failure are mild compared to the consequences I’m already facing because I haven’t been able to reach this other, huge, goal.

Even if I only increase my pace to 1,000 words a day, I’ll still be putting out 2 books a year in each series. That’s considerably better than the current schedule for one of those series, which hasn’t seen a new release in 18 months. And let’s not forget that it took me 11 months to put out the second book in the pen name series. I’ve spent too much time writing other stuff, in no particular order, just trying to stay on top of all the series. I can’t keep up.

So going forward, I’ll be writing a book for each series, in the same order every time, and I’ll stick to one book until it’s done before I move to the next.

Could be this is a mistake. But if I reach my 2,192 words for a day, I can write on anything I want, including those series I didn’t choose to make part of my plan. It’s a reward for staying on track.

And if I do stay on track long-term, I’m considering throwing in one of those side projects every three or four cycles through the main series. I’ll consider that a reward to strive for, too.

In the end, it was important for me to recognize that I’d let perfectionism into my planning. I don’t think it’s done my career any favors and it had to go if I want to move forward. It feels weird to give up on this challenge, but sometimes you have to give up on the things that aren’t working to make real progress.

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