While the Imposter Monster can sometimes come to visit, and his cousin Perfectionist Pete likes to pop up every now and then, there’s another freelance monsterling that can make your life a misery if you’re not careful.
Unlike the big monsters this one is tiny. So tiny that you may not realise he’s jumping up and down on your keyboard. He’s so tiny I haven’t even got a name for him, but he’s an ugly little brute, and one that makes you check, check and check again before sending off work. Let’s just call him Checker Charlie.
Now I am a bit of a perfectionist but over the years I’ve tried to rein that in a little, after all no-one is perfect (and never believe anyone who says they are). However, at times, I can find myself compulsively checking and rechecking work. Everyone is different but I find myself checking a lot when:
I’ve been working with a new client and I want to make sure everything is as perfect as it can be. First impressions count after all.
I’m tired. Long hours can slow you down and I find myself checking and rechecking, convinced I’ve missed things.
I’m working with a new or complicated style sheet.
I’m working without a style sheet and have to create my own. Sometimes you can end up second-guessing yourself.
I’m not totally familiar with the subject matter. On-the-job training can be invaluable, but you can find yourself checking a LOT, just to make sure.
I’m getting slightly stressed over a complicated job, for example, where the writing needs heavier editing than at first thought.
The reason this tiny little monster is so destructive is that he creeps up on you – you don’t realise he’s there until he ushers in Perfectionist Pete and the Imposter Monster. Before you know it the monsters are having a house party and you are convincing yourself that you’d be better off throwing in the towel.
I haven’t come up with a way to defeat this little monster yet, but being observant is key. When I realise what’s happening this is what I do:
Stop – reach a natural conclusion to your work.
Look – have one last check to make sure everything has been ticked off your to-do list, and that it’s all in order.
Listen – to your gut. Why are you compulsively checking? Is there a valid reason you are not finished?
(with apologies to the government’s road safety campaign)
Understand – every editor and proofreader is different. Wordsmithing is an art, not a science. Ten wordy professionals in a room with come up with ten different ways of working, all equally valid. Your work is fine, it’s just the Imposter Monster’s little cousin trying to mess with your head.
Do you have this problem, and if so how do you handle it? Compulsive checking not only eats into your hourly rate, it also lowers self-esteem and you end up seeing what you want to see anyway (perfectly correct edits can look wrong, and you will spend time convinced you are missing something). I’d be lying if I said I’d defeated little Charlie, but I’m working on it.