Letting Go of Perfectionism

Originally Posted: August 12, 2011

“The real writer is one who really writes”  —Marge Piercy

So much of the difficulty in writing resides in our own resistance, our own negative self-perceptions or the stories we tell ourselves about why we can’t write:  

I just can’t find the time

I’ve got nothing new to say

I’d like to write but I’m just not sure I have enough talent

When I sit down to write, nothing comes

Who do I think I am, trying to be a writer, anyways? 

The act of writing requires courage, even for experienced and published writers.  Even published writers often feel overwhelmed—by their own clamoring critical voices and the seeming impossibility of the task at hand.  One way I try to combat this resistance is to “trick” myself into writing—a little at a time. If I pretend that I’m just playing around, not taking it too seriously, I find I can approach my work with less fear and loathing (and less procrastination!)

Never sit down and declare: “Now I’m going to write a great short story,” or “Here begins the first chapter of my new novel.”  Most writers, if they take themselves this seriously, will instantly freeze.  Each sentence feels like it has to be a perfect sentence; two hours later, you might find that you’ve only written two of these sentences, and chances are, they’ll feel stiff and awkward.

Instead, I’ll often give myself 15 or 20 minutes to write about a certain topic or character or scene, the only rule being that I keep typing the entire time.  Or I promise to show up and write 500 words—even if those 500 are the worst I’ve ever written.  Tomorrow, I might find a gem buried in those terrible 500 words…    

Allow yourself the flexibility to write a less than perfect first draft. Allow yourself to let go of perfectionism. If you can approach your work with generosity, curiosity and playfulness, you’ll be a happier, more productive writer.

Posted by: Dori

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