10 ways to drop the perfectionism in your writing

So it’s blog day tomorrow. You’ve got a great topic, but your blog is nowhere near ready. You spent too much time researching and not enough time actually writing. You’ve been trying to edit it for a few hours now, shifting a paragraph there, tweaking a word here – getting distracted by Facebook or the telly for a while – then tweaking the same words back again. Maybe you could just skip a week. They say consistency is key but come on – would anyone really care?

Does that sound familiar? Do you struggle with pushing the publish button, obsessing over every little sentence and wondering how people are going to react? Do you constantly worry that you’ve missed something vital, or that you’ve accidentally phrased something in a way that might be perceived as ignorant, insensitive, or offensive? That everyone will see you don’t really know what you’re talking about and you’re making this up as you go along?

Welcome to the deadly pull of perfectionism my friends. It’s a killer for your creativity, for your productivity, for your stress levels, your self-belief, your enjoyment of your work and ultimately, for your business.

I know you may not feel like you’re a perfectionist. That would imply your work eventually reaches a standard of perfection, and you would never claim that – you see its flaws all too well. You’ve just got high standards, right? Or maybe you’re just really slow at writing (and you beat yourself up for that too).

If:

  • You feel like it’s all been said before
  • You spend too much time fine-tuning your writing
  • You constantly struggle to press the publish button
  • The copy for that new sales page or website page is never quite ready
  • The tiniest mistake feels like a disaster
  • You over-the-top worry about putting your work out there

then you my friend, are struggling with perfectionism.

Don’t worry you’re in good company – a lot of artists, writers, filmmakers and other creatives struggle with this too. But if you’re spending too long crafting that blog, sales page or newsletter, it’s going to have a negative impact on other areas of your work. As an entrepreneur, time is your most precious asset and it’s important to make sure you’re using it wisely.

Here are 10 tips to help get you to publish: 

  1. Commit to a regular writing practice – The best way to find your voice, is to use your voice, so make a habit of writing every day. I’ve written before about the power of daily journalling as a tool for discovering new and creative insights into your work – make it a daily practice to free write for just 10 minutes (no editing allowed!)
  2. Get it in perspective. Paying close attention to the details of a sales page may be time well spent, but the same does not apply to every single Facebook post. Learn to focus your time and attention on the words that really matter, and adopt a lighter approach with the rest.
  3. Embrace the bad first draft. Don’t edit as you go – write all the way to the end, and ideally, set it aside for at least an hour or two before you come back to review it with fresh eyes.
  4. Focus on delivering value. When you provide interesting, useful, actionable content, people won’t care about the odd break in the flow of the writing. Stay focused on the overall message and don’t sweat the tiny details.
  5. Commit to a regular content schedule. If you just have to get out that blog or that podcast every week, there will be times you have to let go of your perfectionism just to meet your deadline. Try committing to a regular schedule for at least a month and see what happens. The bonus is that the more you write and share, the more your writing will improve, so there will be less to worry about.
  6. Quit the comparison. Yes there will be blogs that are better than yours in some respects, just as your blog will be better than others. Yes some of these topics have been covered before – but not by you and not with your voice and your history. The internet is vast and there is room for many voices – and just because an idea has been discussed before, does not mean your ideal customer has even considered it. Your perspective counts too. For more ideas on dealing with comparisonitis, see this post.
  7. Fill up your inspiration tanks. Be sure to put your pen down from time to time and move your body, or explore new experiences. The change of scene will reinvigorate your soul – and your writing.
  8. Understand that people actually like flaws. Yep they do. They can’t relate to robots. Many of the most popular ‘viral’ blog posts are those where people get vulnerable or admit to their mistakes and shortcomings. The occasional spelling mistake or grammatical misstep is not going to fatally undermine your work (though do get some help if this is a particular area of struggle for you).
  9. Understand that perfection does not exist. Where one person sees perfection another will see flaws. It’s an unattainable ideal – so let it go. Because…
  10. Good enough is…. well, good enough. Yep. While you should always strive to do great work, there’s a point at which all the tweaking in the world makes very little difference to the end result. You’ve got to learn to stop writing when you reach that point. This can be haaaarrrrd – sometimes writing to deadline or having other projects that must be prioritised, are the only tricks that will stop my endless tweaking. But the more I practice ‘good enough’, the easier it becomes.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? What’s your best tip for moving through it? I’d love to hear your ideas – share your thoughts in the comments below.

 And if you need help moving through your perfectionism on a piece of writing, I offer a one-off copywriting power hour session for USD$99 – click here to book yours.

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