Episode 033 | Balancing Professionalism and Perfectionism
With all of our focus on productivity, we’re working hard to find a way to get quality work out the door.
Quality (NOT perfect) work OUT THERE (NOT sitting in your cloud or in a drawer awaiting more attention).
We have all these things we want to accomplish, that we’ve committed time, energy, and other resources towards. And just when we’re humming along, getting our work done, enter that demon from Writing Hell: Perfectionism. Think of it like an evil Zeus, who is the originator of most of the other writing troubles. It spawns Procrastination, Writer’s Block, Revisionitis, Over-Preparation and more.
Perfectionism is born of Fear but beautifully disguises itself as the more virtuous “Professionalism.” In contrast, Professionalism, while still conscientious and earnest, evolves from self-assuredness and clear-mindedness. It will ask you to do your best without luring you into adopting self-destructive work habits.
Note Where Perfectionism Is Holding You Back
Is it causing you to procrastinate?
Is it causing you to overprepare?
Is it slowing your work down too much?
Is it keeping me from finishing things?
Is it sucking the joy out of your writing experience?
Is it causing you to overedit?
Is it keeping you from submitting things?
Is it affecting your self-esteem and/or your perception of yourself?
Is it causing you to adopt unhealthy habits to balance out your stress?
Be Selective – Spend a little time thinking about and deciding what’s REALLY worth your “A Game” and what can sort of slide a little bit. On this front, I cannot recommend Heartbreathings HB90 Boot Camp enough. It. Has. Changed. My. Life. Not just my writing life. My life.
Let Your Work Rest – Put some distance between your writing and your editing process
Please (and) Express Yourself – Make a point to resist seeking approval from others. If you’re a people-pleaser, this one can be especially hard, I know. Do your best.
When in Doubt, Get Busy – Because as C.S. Lakin reminds us, “Action helps cure fear.”
Set a Timer and/or a Deadline – Limit how long you can work on something. This is the brilliance of NaNoWriMo. If you did that challenge, don’t leave the skills you picked up during that month trapped in November. Carry them forward throughout the year.
Make Failing a Rewarding Experience and/or a Game – Like the 100 Rejections challenges out there, reward yourself for putting things out there, even if they “fail.”
Set a High Submission Goal – It will serve to reduce the amount of time you have to spend on any one project. Again, think NaNoWriMo.
Celebrate Small Success – These can be process successes (e.g. Daily Writing Wordcount Streak) or product successes (You made it to the second round of a contest?! Got favorable feedback from your critique group? Celebrate!) Jennifer Louden does a great class on CreativeLive.com where she really digs into this. Here’s a $15 coupon if you decide to check it out. I think it would make the class all of $5. Her class is a bargain at $20 and a STEAL at $5.
Get Help from Your Tools: Some people find ways to avoid seeing what they’ve already written in a way that helps them to move forward more quickly. It can be as simple as changing the color of the font on the page up until the point where you’re doing the days writing to blend in with the background (e.g. white on white) or there are a variety of software options that can make it hard to see what you’ve already written.
When in Doubt, Take a Break and Do Something Else – Make it something that you love AND that you are not considered one of the world’s leading experts at/of. Still love it?! Still think it’s worth doing?! Maybe take that lesson with you back to the page.
Remind Yourself that No One Can Ban You from Writing – Except yourself, of course. The only way a bad piece of writing is a career-ender is if you make it one.
Delegate! – Remind yourself you don’t have to go this alone. You can (and absolutely should) bring in reinforcements like beta readers, critique partners, or developmental editors to help you with ideas that will make your work stronger and line editors and proofreaders to help catch your consistency mistakes and typos.
THE STICK APPROACH: Think of it this way. Brutal, but effective.
“Each day you don’t write something, you’ve failed. Harsh? Yep. But it’s my job to shake you out of your comfort zone and get you on the write track. And I want you to remember—to really, really remember—that writing nothing is worse than writing something that sucks.” Mandy Wallace
That being said, remember to be gentle with yourself here. You don’t need to get all perfectionistic about kicking your perfectionism habit, after all. 🙂 Colleen Story does a good job of summing it up. Enjoy her words of wisdom below.
“Managing Perfectionism is a Lifelong Process. Your perfectionism is probably not going to go away. Remember, it’s okay! In many ways, it can benefit your career. To limit its potential destructiveness on your writing time, try changing just one habit per day. Baby steps are key to gradually allowing yourself to step away from the need to be perfect, and get closer to ‘good enough.'” Colleen M. Story
Try out some of these techniques. Practice being more productive (and professional!) by doing your best to dial down the perfectionism. Next week, we’ll look at ways to balance your creative and business sides of your writing.
Until then, happy writing, people!
6 Ways for Writers to Overcome Perfectionist Tendencies by Jeff Goins
7 Tips for Perfectionist Writers by Samantha Brannon
17 Signs Perfectionism Is Killing Your Writing Dreams by Mandy Wallace
How to Defeat Your Perfectionism in Writing by Ruthanne Reid
How to Overcome Perfectionism to Boost Your Writing Productivity by Colleen M. Story
Ways Writers Can Combat Perfectionism by C.S. Lakin
The Writer’s Quest for Excellence vs. Perfectionism by Joanna Penn