Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Perfectionism, Vomit, Submissions, and Swag

My names is Milo. I'm a recovering perfectionist.
Once upon a time, I would write every line of a story and make sure it was "perfect" before moving on to the next. I would craft each sentence as a sculptor molds clay and cuts away the excess, working over every word to be certain it was the best choice. Obviously, it was slow-going.
Sure, I’d read King's On Writing where he emphasizes the importance of blazing through the first draft without stopping; of course, I was familiar with Hemingway's famous quote that first drafts are always garbage. But I thought I had to make mine the best it could be, since in comparison with a King or a Hemingway's first draft, mine at its best was probably closer to theirs at their worst.
But then I heard a writer talk about "vomiting" his work onto the page, and while he was referring to baring one's heart and soul (and cookies?) in his writing, I decided to use the same term in reference to my early drafts.
Once I'm able to set aside the notion that each sentence has to be perfect the first time around, I can freely "vomit" all manner of wordage onto the page and then sift through the mess for what really gleams. Maybe I end up tossing half the stuff I write, but at least I've got that other half written.
Here's what perfectionism does for me: It keeps me from writing. "Why bother trying if I know I'm not in a good frame of mind to write something wonderful today? I should wait until inspiration strikes; then my verbiage shall be most grand." Bah. Better to vomit it out. As my favorite Greek philosopher Anonymous once said, "The worst stuff you write is always better than the best stuff you don't."
>> End of Inspirational Transmission <<
Having a little difficulty figuring out where to submit your stories? Is hunting through Duotrope's Digest or Ralan's Webstravaganza leaving you full of angst? Fear not. Here is a cool blog where Jim Harrington interviews editors and finds out exactly what they're looking for. Check it out:  "Six Questions For…"
In other news, we now have Write1Sub1 swag available through Café Press! T-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, stickers, tote bags, even doggie apparel, all emblazoned with our logo + the most important word of 2011: PERSPERISTENCE!
Write1Sub1 swag has been made available only for those of us who want to share our love of Write1Sub1 with the world. Neither Milo James Fowler, Simon Kewin, nor Stephen V. Ramey will make a single cent from any purchase at Café Press. All prices have been set by Café Press, and all proceeds go directly to them. This is not a money-making endeavor. This is just a cool way to publicize our year-long writing experiment in Ray Bradbury’s shadow.
>> End of Disclaimer <<

I’ve ordered one of the ringer T's and a mug for myself with earnings from a story I sold last December. Talk about the circle of life… 


  1. Love the mug, I think I'm going to buy one. :D

    I do have a qestion. How do you know when it's perfection you're fighting (after revision) or truly fearing it needs more revision? How do you know when it's ready? Or if you're just getting cold feet?

  2. Baseball jersey for me. Now to impatiently wait for it to arrive in New Zealand.

  3. @ dmbonanno.com - I can spend years revising things. Case in point - I wrote a novel in 2001. I just finished a revision this past fall. Now I give myself a limit, especially since this whole submission thing is a major hurdle to jump for me.

    I revise a story twice, then send it in. I'll revise it to death if I let myself. I'm hoping I'll get some good feedback as I go along, so I'll know better what and how to revise.

    Ooh, t-shirt! Me want, me want!

  4. I now have a new goal: the first time a submission gets accepted in 2011, I will rush to the store and buy myself one of those lovely, lovely things. =)

  5. We have swag. Yay!

    I used to be a perfectionist but to avoid the constant re-writing and not moving forward, I always write the first draft by hand. It doesn't look like I vomited over it, but it certainly looks like an ink spider has been drawing!

  6. It's maybe a bit easier to learn NOT to wait for perfection as an artist - no good (nor anything else) comes from staring at a piece of paper thinking "this one will be a masterpiece". At the other end of the spectrum, I was told "Don't think of everything you do as an "experiment" - it IS a piece of work, even if not perfect.

  7. I am totally a bulimic writer... I have to wait for enough stuff to get inside before I can vomit up something semi-substantial ;)

  8. jys, I like the idea of a reward (some cool W1S1 swag!) when a submission gets accepted!

    I've revised pieces to "perfection" only to find I managed to suck out the heart and soul of the story. It's a delicate balance.

  9. Oooh, swag! @jys - I second Madeline! Swag as a reward is great idea.

  10. If I had waited for perfection. I would never have sent in that first 6 word story to Smith Magazine. Where all of the online work started for me.

  11. dmbonanno: You mean, your stories don't demand to leave the roost when they've come of age? Seriously, good question. I know mine are ready when I'm sick of revising them -- and then I revise them once more just for good measure.

    Samuel: Order a hobbit-sized one, and Cafe Press will rush ship it for FREE.

    Sparklecat: Sounds like my process; but fighting perfectionism forces me to revise it a couple more times. I learn a lot through rejections w/ feedback, and a better story always emerges.

    jys: Very nice.

    Ellie: I do that as well on occasion; forcing myself not to stop and correct spelling and/or penmanship errors can be a real time-waster for me, though. But it's the best way I've found to freewrite.

    Sandra: Sound advice.

    jkdavies: Ewww. =)

    Madeline: Yes indeed; am there this week. =(

    A.S.: Hopefully there won't be too many acceptances; accumulating swag might get costly...

    Jeanette: True that.

  12. LOL! I liked your confession about being a recovering perfectionist!
    I love the write1sub1 swag. Do we win something if we succeed in sending out 52 submissions in the year even if none get published LOL? Only kidding ;O)

  13. The swag is great; my order came in the mail yesterday--a good way to reward myself for turning out four short stories this month, regardless of whether they're ever published. =]