Monday, July 14, 2008

Why I Write: To get it perfect

Perfectionism is one of my own little hells.

Perfectionism for me means:
1. Avoiding committing anything to paper before I've gotten it just right, and therefore not writing anything, or
2. Never being happy with what does hit the page and therefore never seeing an end in sight for a project.

How do I know I've got a script or idea 'perfect'? I never can, because the next time I look over the idea I start to become unhappy with what's there. There's always something to change. I've spent years being trapped in projects because of my perfectionist streaks.

Particularly deadly is a streak of perfectionism coupled with a growing sense of ambition. This allows me to shift the goalposts for a particular work as I'm working on it. Which allows me to chase my tail in search of perfection forever.

I think the worst problem about perfectionism for me is I eventually end up giving up on scripts, and to some degree myself as well, and moving on to something else that seems easier and brighter. I never quite finish because it just becomes too hard to finish.

What I hope I'm moving towards is a place where I can stop working on scripts and be satisfied with what I've accomplished. To really finish things rather than have the process aborted in some way or another - which includes having the script made but still not being happy with it. Which is yet another kind of perfectionism I suffer from...


Tim Jones said...

That's where deadlines are useful - even self-imposed ones.

Benedict Reid said...

Script aren't finished, they're abandoned. I know it's a cliche... but it's also true. Especially if you're not a one man writer/director/DOP/actor combo.
There's no such thing as perfect, especially when you're talking about anything creative. This is where my critical side actually does me a favour. I honestly can't think of a film/book/play/painting which couldn't have been improved on. So when I look at my own work and think how it could be different and possibly better... that's the same attitude I have towards my favourite film scripts by people who I respect and look up to. Therefore it's possible for me to move on with a project and not get caught up in making it flawless.

the daily screenwriter said...

Have made a lot of progress on perfectionism myself. For me it's worked to realise nobody will care about anything before the final draft!

Helen Rickerby said...

This isn't so much of a problem for me I don't think, mainly because I'm quite lazy and don't have the stamina for perfection. This is where writing poetry, and writing quite intuitively is handy, because once I've written a poem, if it hasn't turned out right, and I can't see how to fix it, I can abandon it altogether and I won't have wasted much time.

My feeling about this cycle is, as you probably know, that its hard to get better if you don't actually write stuff, but then I find my way into things mainly by actually writing, and my things are much, much shorter.