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Article Marketing Tips: Is Perfectionism Killing Your Writing?
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Some people think that being a perfectionist is the best way to be–what could be wrong with having high standards?

There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for yourself and always trying to improve, but a line can be crossed that actually hurts your ability to write productively. Did you know that getting hung up on being perfect can actually bring on writer’s block?

I realized that the other day when I was looking over the comments from some old posts. Several years ago I had written an article on overcoming writer’s block, and I asked readers to tell me how they dealt with it. I was intrigued to see “perfection paralysis” noted by a few people as the reason why they have trouble writing sometimes.

I’ve heard that other places before–writer’s block is not that you’ve lost the ability to write. It’s just that you are afraid that what you write won’t be up to your standards.

So, instead of doing a post about how to overcome writer’s block, I thought it might be helpful for some of us to hear some tips on how to overcome perfectionism.

This is something that I’ve had to deal with in my life–I call myself a “recovering perfectionist”. I’m including some of my own tips for breaking free of the mental quicksand of perfectionism, and I’ve also rounded up some tips from others.

1 – Celebrate failure.

If you are a perfectionist, you know that there is a lot of pressure there. After all, no one can be perfect all the time, so there’s always anxiety about performance.

Sometimes you need to do something radical to break free of this. A friend of mine who is a perfectionist has a daughter who is also one. My friend noticed that her daughter was extremely hard on herself with grades–her daughter has decided that she must get “A’s” all the time and anything less than perfection is not an option for her.

Out of compassion and concern for her daughter, my friend decided to do something radical. She encouraged her daughter to get less than an “A” on one of her tests. She told her that if she got a “B”, they would have a “B” party where they would eat foods that start with the letter “B”. If she got a “C”, “D”, or “F” they would have the same celebration, eating foods that started with the letter of her grade.

In a way, they would be celebrating the fact that her daughter wasn’t perfect. The idea was to take some of the pressure off and show her that the world would not end for her if she showed herself to be a mere mortal.

When I heard that story, it inspired me to try it on myself (minus eating the grade inspired food). Now, when I mess up on something, be it forgetting to add an ingredient in a recipe, misplacing my keys, or breaking a tea cup, I laugh. I think of my mistakes as a positive thing. They are positive–they’re helping me to overcome perfectionism.

2 – Pay attention to how you talk to yourself.

Most perfectionists will talk to themselves with a critical voice, usually telling themselves that their work isn’t good enough or that they’re not trying hard enough. Sometimes we’re so used to saying things to ourselves that we don’t even realize we have a choice.

There is a difference between noticing areas for potential improvement and belittling yourself. Practice observing only the facts and refraining from making judgments on yourself.

For example, you can say, “I think I can make a stronger intro paragraph and a more interesting title.”

Avoid saying things like, “I’m just not a good writer! I can’t do this.”

3 – Enjoy the process.

I was reading in the article More Tips For Overcoming Perfectionist Tendencies that perfectionists tend to have unrealistically high expectations of themselves and they want to reach the pinnacle of development immediately, while avoiding the process of working up to an ambitious goal.

The article suggests that instead of focusing only on the end goal, you put more emphasis on the process and enjoying each step along the way.

I have had an experience with this recently–normally on family trips I just want to get to where we’re going, the sooner the better. But lately I’ve been trying to change my approach, and I try to enjoy the journey. Sometimes we’ll stop in little towns and look around for a while, other times we’ll take our time browsing through a local store, or have a picnic at a rest area along the way.

I decided to take the attitude that my vacation begins from the moment I get off of work, rather than just when we reach our destination. The result was a more relaxed trip for everyone, and my eyes were opened to the charm of people and towns along the way that I might have never looked twice at.

Conclusion

Perfectionism is a hard master, and it can turn on you in a heartbeat. In smaller doses it can make you more productive, but in larger doses it can also make you unable to produce at all. Sometimes it can stop you dead in your tracks (the dreaded “perfection paralysis” and “writer’s block”).

Here are a couple more resources I found on this topic, and if you suffer from perfectionism, I encourage you to read over this material. It could make your writing easier.

Overcoming Perfectionism: How To Develop A Healthier Outlook

How To Control Perfectionism


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5 Responses to “Article Marketing Tips: Is Perfectionism Killing Your Writing?”

  1. Maria Eves says:

    Article Marketing tips “Pay attention to how you talk to yourself” Im glad u shared this. I have so much melancholy traits – the perfectionist everything is in its place…

    Sometimes it can stop you dead in your tracks (the dreaded “perfection paralysis” and “writer’s block”).

    Im over it now but its great that you shared this in article marketing tips as I would not of thought of this.

    Thanks for shareing

  2. Steve, thanks for this, as I didn’t realize that I was doing this until just now! I love your “recovering pefectionist”! In the last few years I have tried to lighten up on myself and enjoy things more and it does help. The one area I wasn’t doing this in was my writing and websites. Great article!

  3. Steve Shaw says:

    Thanks Sheila and Maria–glad this article was of help! :)

  4. Hi Steve,

    Really like that. It’s true that while we are striving to do our best, perfectionism can be a killer.

    When I deal with someone who I feel have the perfectionism syndrome I like to tell them “take time to smell the roses”. I mean by that, that it’s not healthy to be so tight about oneself, and it prevents us to “live” in the moment. Taking time to smell the roses, meaning relaxing and taking it easy just a bit can go a long way.

    That goes for writing. If you’d stop trying so hard to be perfect, you might actually enjoy it :)

  5. Norman Gwiri says:

    Hie Steve !

    Thank you so much ,I have been a perfectionist all
    my life ,but after reading your article, I am now
    more relaxed and enjoyng my life.

    Keep up the good work.

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