Perfectionism is a branch of the same tree as the inner critic and imposter syndrome, and the root of that tree is self-doubt. Self-doubt is part of the writing process for every single writer, and it doesn’t need to keep you from writing. This video includes three ways perfectionism shows up in our writing lives and two strategies to keep it at bay.


Stephanie: (00:07)
Hello writers. Today we’re going to talk a bit about perfectionism and how it can show up in our writing lives. What’s important to remember is that perfectionism is a branch of the same tree as the inner critic and imposter syndrome, and the root of that tree is self-doubt. Self-doubt is part of the writing process for every single writer, and it just doesn’t need to keep you from writing. The key is to recognize when those thoughts are coming up and not follow them into the pit of despair, right? . So today I’ve got for you three ways that perfectionism shows up for writers and two strategies to keep it at bay. But before we dive in, I want to make sure that you’ve grabbed my free guide, the Three Pillars of a Solid Novel. Now, we all want our novels to be better than just solid.

Stephanie: (01:00)
Of course we do. But before they can be brilliant, breathtaking bestsellers, they need to have a solid foundation. This free guide includes tips, strategies, and activities to shore up the basics of your novel so that you can shape it into the masterpiece that you want it to be. You can grab it at the link below. So perfectionism is defined by the dictionary as a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable. You know, for a long time I thought perfectionist was a strength. Why wouldn’t you want something to be perfect? But the truth is writing is messy, and a lot of what comes out of us onto the page, especially when we’re writing a first draft, just isn’t that good, and we know it. That’s where the problem comes in. But if we tell ourselves that it’s not good enough and we don’t move forward until it’s perfect, we’ll never get our draft finished.

Stephanie: (01:58)
For writers, perfectionism often comes up in the early chapters because of this. I have to have everything right in this chapter before I can move forward. This is why a lot of writers get stuck in the first or second chapter or the first 10 chapters, just revising and revising and not moving forward. We just aren’t comfortable letting a chapter or a scene be messy and incomplete and letting it stay there as we move forward. That’s perfectionism. Another way perfectionism can come up is in research. If you’re writing a historical fiction novel, for example, or one with scientific knowledge that you wanna get just right, or even just describing a real place in the world, it can be so easy to endlessly research. The truth is, at some point you have to believe that you have enough information to write the scene, and that if something is missing, you can add it later.

Stephanie: (02:54)
But that procrastination, that’s perfectionism. A type of perfectionism that’s actually pretty sneaky has to do with our writing life. Saying things like, I don’t have enough time, or I don’t have the perfect space to write, can be perfectionism. We don’t actually need hours on end or cute little writing studio to get it done. Now, only you will know whether what you’re saying about your time and or your writing space is true or possibly perfectionism. So what do we do about this perfectionism? Well, each of us is unique and we’ll each need to find our own ways of managing our perfectionism. But the first step, which goes a long way, is just recognizing your perfectionistic tendencies and being willing to let them go when they come up. Consider not defining yourself as a perfectionist anymore. Stop saying, I am a perfectionist, that’s just how it is, and play with being willing to let things be

Stephanie: (03:55)
B minus work. Something you could try is creating a mantra for yourself around this and practicing it often, not just when your perfectionism is rearing its head, something like, I’m willing to let things be imperfect or I can revise later. Another strategy could be developing a ritual in your writing practice that requires messiness. For example, maybe you do five minutes of free writing first, where you don’t let your pen stop moving and you don’t go back and correct anything. Or maybe you tell yourself that you only get 10 minutes of editing time at the end of each writing session, and otherwise you need to be writing forward. What it is in practice doesn’t matter so much is kind of pushing yourself to let your writing be messy. Remember, perfectionism is another form of self-doubt, and self-doubt is just part of the process. It doesn’t have to keep you from writing your book. If you like this video and you know someone else who might benefit from it, please subscribe and share. Thanks. Happy writing.