Creative Writing Tips - Dealing With Perfectionism

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Yesterday, I received an email from a woman who is feeling stuck with her writing. She told me the problem is her perfectionism.

She can't stop judging and criticizing everything she writes, and it's causing her to freeze up.

Perfectionism might sound like a good thing. But it is NOT good for creativity.

Although your perfectionism might be helpful when you get to the editing stage with a manuscript...

It will NOT help you with the coming-up-with-ideas part.

It will NOT help you with the imagination part.

It will NOT help you with the bringing-the-story-to-life part.

It will just get in your way.

If you give way to perfectionism too soon in the process, you're likely to cut off the creative flow.

But how do you switch it off?

If you're a goal-oriented person, it's hard to stop measuring yourself.

Here's my advice: change your goal.

Remember: the more you write, the better your writing will get. So when you sit down to write, you can think of it as training.

Focus on quantity and time investment.

It's like going to the gym. If you exercise for 10 hours a week, you'll get better results than if you exercise for just 1.

Some specific suggestions:

- Set a writing schedule for yourself. Try to write daily for at least 5 days a week. For many busy people, first thing in the morning is a good time -- you can set your alarm clock a little earlier.

- Set a daily or weekly goal for yourself in terms of quantity. Allow yourself to write as sloppily and badly as necessary to reach that goal.

- Don't reread yourself while you're writing. Idea: you might find it helpful not to reread what you've written for 6 months to a year. Give yourself 6 months to generate as much raw material as possible. Then, after that time, read through what you've produced and look for things you want to revise.


- Try to have fun.

- Try to do something new.

- Try to pull off something you don't know if you're capable of.

- Try to make yourself laugh or cry or give yourself chills.

gulls in flight
(Image adapted from a photograph by Anthony Delanoix)

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