Welcome to How to Keep Writing Wednesdays, where you'll find a boost of encouragement to help you keep the words flowing.

Overcoming Perfectionism

When it comes to writing, there’s only one thing worse than a procrastinator.

It’s a perfectionist.

At first glance, the perfectionist seems harmless, maybe even noble. The perfectionist wants you to do your best work, after all—is that a crime?

Of course not. 

But here’s the thing about the perfectionist. He (or she) often has a hard time letting go. The perfectionist (aka the critic, the editor, the teacher, the expert) will keep at it and not let up until you achieve perfection. And as we all know, that never happens. The perfectionist will rip up or destroy whatever you’ve done and send you back to the drawing board. The perfectionist can run you ragged, if not physically then mentally. But that’s nothing compared to what it does to your spirit—raise your hand if you feel like it’s never enough, like you’re never enough. Yep, I thought so.

The perfectionist knows exactly what to say to make you feel like you’re not good enough. The kicker is that we actually believe this voice.

Well, it’s time to put a stop to that.

I’ve long since realized that we can’t get rid of these pieces of ourselves. Believe it or not, they do serve a purpose. There are times when you might call on that aspect of yourself to show up and do a little work. The key is to not let perfectionism run the show. We are all so much more than any one part of ourselves.

So how to keep the perfectionist at bay? By doing exactly what makes the perfectionist a little bit crazy, which is to go for life—and writing—with gusto. So you make a mistake. No big deal. So the sentence doesn’t even read like a sentence. You can fix it later. So you’re not ready, not prepared, could potentially make a fool of yourself. It won’t be the end of the world. Really.

The key is that when something doesn’t turn out like you think it should, go easy on yourself. If your perfectionist is telling you “if only you’d listened and done it my way, none of this would have happened…” give your inner perfectionist a pat on the head or, better yet, a hug. Tell them (yourself) it’s really okay, because it is. And then throw yourself back into your messy, imperfect life (or your novel, your screenplay, your poetry, your memoir, your job, your family, your great big beautiful idea or dream) and go for it.