I recently found and binge-watched The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell on Netflix. I recommend the 6-episode show for its humor, muppets, fun set, and macabre theme well suited to this season, but that’s not why I loved it.
The element that drew me in was the unabashed celebration of perfectionism.
McConnell creates amazing, edible masterpieces that take hours if not days to complete, each with intense, painstaking details. She calls these details the “fun parts,” as if using a dremel to shave individual almonds into claw shapes or piping thousands of “shingles” onto a cake house is a normal activity everyone wants to do.
I completely understand.
I have had a love/hate relationship with perfectionism my whole life. As a kid, most of the feedback in my parent-teacher conferences was that I needed to not take everything so seriously, stop trying to achieve perfection, and get into a bit more trouble. (Confusing advice to hear from a teacher, right?)
I’ve relaxed a bit over the years. I don’t try to make every element in my life perfect. I mostly save that for my books now.
For example, here is my current editing process:
- Read the first draft; mark every single problem in a bulleted list
- Edit each chapter 2-3 times, checking off items on my list along the way
- Send the book to beta readers; incorporate their feedback and edit the entire book again
- Read each chapter aloud (and edit it)
- Read aloud just the dialog (and edit it)
- Send it to the copyeditor and proofreader; incorporate their edits
For those of you counting, that’s a minimum of 5 editing rounds just by me, plus another 3 rounds by others.
That sounds crazy excessive, right?
However, I would never be happy to publish anything but my best novel, and so I allow myself to indulge in this level of perfectionism.
(Then I try to let it go, because even with all these rounds edits, there will be mistakes, flaws, typos. People will feel the need to point them out. And I will just breathe and let. It. Go.)
Watching McConnell embrace the tedium of perfectionism for her incredibly temporary art form reaffirmed my own desire to produce flawless, intricate novels. It also helped soothe the internal critic that constantly tells me I should be doing everything faster. Faster is always the goal, but my heart is happiest when I’m more invested in quality.
Give the show a try.