How to Overcome Perfectionism in Your Writing
“So, don’t have a filter some days. Just write. Don’t really worry about the direction it’s going. Just be curious about what happens. Your goal is to find writing as an intuitive way to express yourself on the page.” —Azul Terronez
When I’m thinking about writing anything, I often find that the more weight or importance I put on the outcome, the harder it can be to write. The pressure that I put on myself to make it good gets me stuck. So, if I feel it’s not good enough, then maybe I’ll never share it. Those feelings are part of the reason why writing can be so easy at some times and then feel almost impossible at other times.
On this week’s episode of “Authors Who Lead,” I talk about why it’s so hard to write sometimes and how to overcome the perfectionism that can make writing hard.
First Steps When Stuck
Maybe you’re in the flow and there’s nothing keeping you from writing. That’s great—celebrate that! There have been times when I have written a book in thirty days and other times when it took me years to write just the one. When you sit down to write, I encourage you to ask yourself several questions: How important is it to you? Why is it important that you write it? And what is keeping you from doing the writing?
Each Book Has Its Own Journey
Every book has its own journey, and each one is unique. With the series of fiction books that Steve, my partner in life and co-founder of “Authors Who Lead,” and I decided to write together, each one has felt different. Book one came pretty easily to me, but I found more resistance with book two. I really enjoyed the process of writing, but when I started to feel a twinge of expectation that this one had to be as good or better than the first one, I started to feel stuck. This comparisonitis is definitely a problem for authors who produce more than one book.
Trying to predict the outcome of your book, whether it will be “good” enough, is like trying to predict the outcome of a child. You can’t, so don’t. Instead, all you can do is not worry about perfection. My friend and author Jadah Sellner urges everyone to just take imperfect action. She explains that imperfect action is truly the only action to take because there is no perfect. Perfectionism is the same coin, a different side of procrastination. So, if we get bogged down in trying to write the perfect book, it will delay us from putting it out into the world.
I encourage you to take action today, even imperfect action. If you feel stuck and feel you can’t take any action, try to set a goal for at least eight minutes a day. Just that small amount of time can be motivating and help build a writing habit. Even if all you’re writing down is that you feel like you can’t think of anything to write, at least it’s getting your thoughts onto the page and unclogging that funnel of doubts and insecurities in your mind. There are no bad words. Just keep writing and allow that creative part of you to show up.
Life Imitates Art
Life truly does imitate art, and art can imitate life. There are times when you feel the motivation to write and something happens in your life to change that source of motivation. One of my dear friends and coaches for our “Authors Who Lead” writing groups has been writing books for many years. In those early years, she wrote as a way of escaping from her life, and the themes of the books were about escaping and traveling away from some danger. Then her life changed and there was a happy, adventurous shift inside her. The need and motivation for escaping were no longer there.
Have you ever felt this way as your life changed? Did you stop writing? Instead, take a clear, slow look at why you are writing what you are writing. What do you have to say now? Maybe your focus point is different. Don’t try to solve the problem in your head—just be curious about what more there is to explore. What is there to go see? How has your life changed, and how has that perspective changed your characters’ views?
Connect, Create, Contribute
We here at “Authors Who Lead” like to say that we want to help our authors connect, create, and contribute. Connecting with other authors can help them grow and learn how to connect to their readers. Creating is not only for our books but also for the path we’re moving forward on. And authors who contribute to a community really start to feel the value of themselves as a person and an author. Even as a new author, you may be a few steps ahead of others you can help.
This is one of the reasons we have created a community called “The Leaders’ Circle,” affectionately known as TLC. You can find out more about this community and how to apply to become part of it at authorswholead.com/tlc. If you’re interested in applying, please do. We want you to join us at any step of your journey, whether you’re writing your first book or your tenth.
I’m constantly blown away by the opportunities just being a writer has given me, not just because I lead “Authors Who Lead” but also because it’s helped me see who I really am. It’s something I always wanted to do. And to finally do it feels great. I want you to join me if that’s your calling. Thanks again for listening.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. What was your biggest takeaway from this episode? In the comments, share your biggest challenge in writing your book.
That’s all for this week. If you have a message inside you that needs to be written, know that you can write the book that’s been on your heart. Don’t delay—get out of your head, put words on the page today, and make a movement with your message!