I Stopped Writing Because I Can’t Do It Perfectly

A new year should be exciting, full of new possibilities and opportunities to fulfil one’s unfulfilled dreams. Yet all I can think about are the things I should have done (but didn’t) last year.

In my mostly untouched 2023 planner, I found that I had made many ambitious plans that never happened. I wanted to finish writing Shapeshifter before the year ended. I even wanted to finish My Girlfriend Is A Pirate—a story that I had only started midway through the year!

Then, with two months left of 2023, I decided to make a final attempt to make headway with Shapeshifter during NaNoWriMo, but then life threw COVID-19 at me.

All year long, I was besieged with doubts about whether or not to pursue fiction writing as a career. I feel as though the quality of my writing has dropped. Definitely, the amount I’m able to write in one sitting has dropped drastically.

I recall the days when I used to be able to sit and write for 8 hours straight without getting bored and feel disheartened. Now I write a hundred words and I wonder when this is going to end.

What’s wrong with me? Why do I dread writing now?

Have I lost my passion for this?

Why is writing not fun anymore?

It’s become so much easier to monetise one’s work than it used to be with the webnovel format.

There’s also less pressure to be an expert at the craft. People will read even grammatically inaccurate novels as long as they’re interesting. Even plot holes can be forgiven now. As someone who has been trained in the craft ‘professionally’, I should have head start over most of these aspiring dreamers.

Instead, I find myself putting off writing until the last minute of the day, then coming up with excuses to do it tomorrow (which never happens).

I keep making plans to write and then scrapping them a few days in.

So if I could describe my 2023 in one word, it would be: disappointing.

I stopped writing because I was afraid. I want my work to be good. Very good. I didn’t want to write until I was certain I could make it good.

As someone who went to school and studied writing, I felt the pressure to be better than everyone else. And by putting that expectation on myself, I found myself trapped and paralysed, unable to move forward because of fear.

Every time I typed out a sentence, I’d interrupt my own train of thought, go back and edit until I thought it was perfect.

But of course, without having written much else, there’s no context for that perfect sentence. So after writing a few more sentences, I’d have to once again go back and edit everything I had written.

By the time I stopped fixing the few sentences I’d written, I was too tired to write anymore.

Instead of my story coming to life on the page, I felt like I was killing my ideas by writing them down. There was no spirit in my words. No fun, no excitement.

It might have been written well, but a whole lot of well-written nothing is worth a lot less than a little roughly-written something.

This year, 2024, I want to enjoy writing. I want to write stories without getting stressed.

I’m a little ashamed about this minuscule goal—as someone who wants to make a living by writing stories—but I think that my fear of imperfection has to be overcome in order to love writing for the rest of my life.

Writing stories is not a science. There’s nothing to perfect about it.

Creative writing can’t be perfect.

But it can be fun.

So today onwards, I’m going to give myself permission to enjoy writing imperfectly!

Stay tuned for more blog posts about my writing journey and (hopefully) more Shapeshifter updates. I won’t be giving up on that project!

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