Writer in Residence

Facing the Double-Headed Dragon: Perfectionism and Fear

By Alisha Sevigny

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Guys. My last few weeks have been bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, so I hope you will all bear with me this month. There may be some punctuation errors here and there. Even a typo or two. The formatting may be off. And goddess knows whether I’ll ever figure out how to embed a video in a post.

But.

I am so excited to be here. With you. And in the spirit of this site’s name, I would like to share my personal stories of this writing and publishing journey in an informal and in-depth way. If there's anything you’d like to read about, or any aspect you’re curious to examine in greater detail, don’t hesitate to reach out and I will do my best to address it.

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For my first post, I’d like to echo what many other writers (including one on here yesterday — see, it's important!) say about getting things “down” or “out there”.

To do this, you often need to clap back at the double-headed dragon that is Perfectionism and Fear, sometimes on the daily.

Take this post for example.

Originally, I wanted to prep all my posts early, like a good little perfectionist, but as mentioned, April was an insane month.

Edits for the first book in my new middle-grade series were due, I’m currently under deadline to finish the second book by mid-May (20K more words in two weeks? NBD!) and I need to come up with an outline (and maybe entire plot?) for the third book in said MG series.

Plus, I’ve started up a creative development company with two other author friends and we’re working on some great content to submit to the publishing and film industries. Add all of this to my numerous side hustles (more about these later), throw in a couple of young kids that have to be kept ALIVE, and top it all off with my Mac laptop dying at the beginning of the month, which resulted in an entire week’s worth of lost time and work. (Luckily, I was able to recover most of it. But definitely didn’t help with stress levels).

So. A few posts were written (and discarded). There is a lot of pressure on communicating directly with thousands of readers. With a book, you have time to refine it and there are other talented people contributing their input. These posts won’t receive quite the same level of attention, which may result in the content being not as polished, a little more raw.  

This is a good thing, I think. Of course, we all want to make sure we do good work. But it does not have to be perfect work, especially not in the beginning. I have found perfectionism to be a productivity killer and in some cases, downright paralyzing. Natalie Goldberg speaks to this in her classic book, Writing Down the Bones (if you haven’t read this gem, I suggest picking up a copy).

At the end of March, as I was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed and worried about getting everything done and done well, a voice began to chirp. Maybe you should decline/postpone the Open Book gig? See about switching months with someone? You just don’t have the time right now to make sure each post is perfect.  

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Of course, this was fear speaking. Not fear of being too busy or hard work, but the fear that comes with putting yourself out there. I get it. You’re opening yourself to criticism, judgement, failure. 

But as a writer or any kind of artist, even as a human being, fear, like perfection, can cripple you. Fear of failing, fear that you’ll never get an agent, or get published, or that readers won’t buy your book or if they do buy it, that they’ll hate it.

Maybe not everyone reading this has these fears. That’s great! But to those that do, what I want to say with this post is try and let go of that fear. Don’t let it hold you back from writing, from sharing your work, from publishing, from putting yourself out there. Because when we write, this is literally what we do. We put a piece of our soul out into the world (I imagine it a bit like Voldemort and his Horcruxes?). And actually, our writing isn't really about us. It can be, of course, but it's also about our readers. 

So be brave, sit down and write. Let go of wanting to get things perfect. And I’ll try to do the same.

Lots of love,

Alisha

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The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.


Alisha Sevigny is the author of YA novels, Summer Constellations, (winner of CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens 2018), and Kissing Frogs. Her historical adventure series, Secrets of the Sands, launches January 2020 with The Lost Scroll of the Physician. She holds a degree in professional writing and sociology from the University of Victoria, is a film school graduate, former literary agent, hot yoga lover and avid traveller. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she lives in Toronto with her family. You can follow her on social media @alishasevigny.