A Swift Kick in the IE-OCD

This morning my DH asked what I planned to accomplish today.  Without thinking, I said, “I would like to get out two submissions.”

“Let’s get it done.”  DH settled in next to me and my computer.  He leafed through a golf mag, oblivious to what he was getting into.  Oblivious to the fact that he was initiating a task I had been putting off for weeks months. 

I am a perfectionist when it comes to querying.  And yet, no writing is ever perfect, not even with critique groups and beta readers.  Completed manuscripts still need tweaked or totally rewritten once an agent or editor is on board with the project.  Even with editorial departments and galley proofs, typos and other mistakes make their way into published books.

Nothing is ever perfect in writing.  But by golly, I was trying.

DH riffled through his mag twice, heaved half a dozen sighs and tried to give me some management advice on saving appropriate files for each of my completed manuscripts.  He may have been raedy to beat me with his golf magazine a tad bit frustrated by the fact that I was searching an AQ thread for my dissected query last spring.

“But you don’t understand,” I wailed.  Yes, I actually wailed.  One hour later and 250 words in, I was frustrated by my lack of the perfect query letter.  “I have 300 words to sell this idea.  Three hundred.”


I attempted to put it in his terms.  “If you had to sell a tractor in 300 words, which ones would you use?” 

“Here’s my tractor, here’s how much it costs.  Now buy it.”

Talk about economy.  I’ve never seen an eleven word query letter before.  Nor was I satisfied with his version, even though he was fundamentally right.  Here’s my book, this is what it’s about.  Now rep it.  Please.  Let us not forget the please.

I struggled some more.  DH snatched up one version.  “What’s wrong with this?”

Everything.  Yet I couldn’t possibly explain the anxiety that went into perfecting those sparse paragraphs.  They had to be PACKED with goodness to have an agent request the manuscript.  They were all I had.  I read him a slightly different version–one with four changed sentences. 

“Oh, yeah.  I like that one much better.”

And that’s when it dawned on me.  I have IE-OCD.  My Internal Editor knows full well that there is always a better version.  It refuses to quit tinkering.  It refuses to approve.  It refuses to give me permission to take that next step.  So I don’t.  I read and reread.  I compulsively change one or two words.  I let my queries simmer.  And I wait for my Internal Editor to tell me that I am finally done.  That all is good. 

This morning my DH gave my IE’s OCD a swift kick in the rear.  With his golf club.  “It’s just a five iron, Baby.  You’re a hundred and eighty yards out.”

Now, I’m not obsessed with golf like he is, but I know he was telling me to relax and swing.  To let it go.

I did.  I hit send, fought the impulse to call my queries back and walked away.  DH may not read often, but he’s got the real world figured out.  And so I leave you with his words of encouragement:

“It’s just a five iron.  You’re a hundred and eighty yards out.” 

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten to kick your Internal Editor’s rear?


8 responses to “A Swift Kick in the IE-OCD

  1. LOL Best advice I ever had: “Shut up, sit down and do it.”

    • That’s quick kick in the rear! I may have to post that one on my computer for the days when my motivation lags. I’ll even attribute it to you with your little avatar pic from my blog!

  2. My IE is a shrieker. She just doesn’t quit. I’m still kinda scared of her. 🙂

    But I’m learning to shut her up a bit more. At the moment I have about 6 pages of hooks, intros and middle paragraphs for my query. And she doens’t like any of them. But I’m nohwere near the querying stage yet, so I’ve got time to reign her in!

    • Jemi,

      Must be rough. Mine doesn’t shriek, though I won’t let her know about yours for fear she starts. Mine just sends me warm fuzzy affirmations that I’m not ready to query yet. And strangely, it’s not the manuscript that she complains about. It’s the queries.

      Maybe she’s just introverted and is afraid of all that success. The spot lights. The interviews. Oprah. NYT Best Seller list. The money. Oh hannah, maybe she just likes our simple home and is afraid of the beach house waiting for us in the Caribbean…

  3. Awesome! Good for you. I think perfectionism is often a cover-up for fear.

    Sometimes, my writing group gets through this by letting someone else read our worst efforts before we revise. Then, we can laugh at our very bad queries, and it lets some of the tension out so we can write the real thing. Then, we can also tell one another, it’s done. Send it. It’s not a baby; put it in the mail.

  4. Pingback: Hear ye! Hear ye! « Words from the Woods

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