Why I Don’t Write Fiction: Confessions of an Overachiever

I love stories. I make up tales in my head all the time and have done so since I was a child. I find pleasure in playing through stories in my head, like a movie that you can watch but have complete control of the storyline. But I don’t write them down.

I tried writing them down during my teenage years. I even received a decent mark in Grade 12 Creative Writing for my stories. Though, with the onset of undergrad, then graduate school, and then full-time work, I never really found the opportunity or ambition to write my stories down anymore. I started a diary at the age of 13, and made a silent pact that this was only going to reflect my life events. I was quite adamant about keeping that up-to-date, at least until I reached university. I will still pull out my diary (which now spans over 6 notebooks) once in while to update it. But even these entries are few and far in-between.


So, why don’t I write stories?

Because I am can’t stand the idea of failing. Call me an over-achiever; call me a perfectionist, but the moment I write something out, my mind is constantly scanning it for errors—continually trying to make it better. I am always questioning my own choices. Yes, this trait makes me a good editor (as I hear from clients), but it makes me a terrible fiction writer.

This perfectionism led to great marks in university. Not only was I constantly reading and writing, writing and reading, I was also always questioning my skills: my arguments; my vocabulary; and my grammar. Essays always felt rushed in the end. Even though I would give myself ample time to complete the writing, I felt the editing was never finished. The few B+s that I received on papers in my first year (apparently a good-enough mark for some), was absolutely heart wrenching for me. It forced me to learn what it was about my writing that wasn’t giving me top marks. It forced me to learn to eagerly master the skills of editing until each B+ turned into an A or A+. Heck, even the “mere” A’s irked me a bit.

This perfectionism makes looking back at my own writing a pain. It kills me to see the mistakes I made in the past. I can only now chuckle at the crooked cursive of my thirteen-year-old hand and silently edit my personal diary entries in my head. I still refuse to look back at essays from my undergrad years, knowing I’ve come so far as a writer and editor since then.

It definitely makes writing blogs very difficult. I started this entry wondering what I should write about. After erasing the first sentence 5 times, I realized that my perfectionism was getting in the way. So that’s my topic. I could read this post over and over, make changes each time I do, and never get it out. I could spend all day on it and finally send it off at midnight, confident it is complete. Then tomorrow, read it while it is already posted and smack my self upon seeing its flaws. That’s just the chance I have to take though.