How to Stop Perfectionism in Writing for Good

Steve Allen


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Whether you want to be an author, a blogger, or both, perfectionism in writing will always get in your way.

This has been a persistent theme in my life since I started my journey to become an entrepreneur in 2005.

And for 12 years, I was unaware of how perfectionism was sabotaging my success.

In this post, I want to help you defeat this pattern, so you can finally become the creative genius that you are.

Keep reading to learn how to stop perfectionism in writing.

1. Know Your Worth

Perfectionism and low self-esteem are often connected to each other.

Having high standards isn’t by itself a bad thing, and can even help you strive to do your best.

However, it becomes a problem when you evaluate yourself negatively in proportion to your work.

A person with high self-esteem isn’t concerned with how they are perceived. What’s important to them is that they get to do what they love and share it with the world.

Whereas a perfectionist is always worried that they themselves aren’t good enough.

Even if their writing is great, their work becomes a reflection of how they see themselves.

But it can be changed.

You just have to know your own worth, even if you don’t see it yet.

Realize that you are a 100% unique individual with untapped talent and potential.

Here are four tips to improve your self-esteem and start believing in yourself:

  1. Take baby steps: Perfectionism and a poor self-image won’t disappear overnight. It’ll take time to develop your confidence, so be patient with yourself.
  2. Set realistic goals: If you set your standards too high, you’re going to set yourself up for failure. Keeping your self-esteem low in the process. Instead, set realistic goals for yourself. Aim for progress, not perfection.
  3. Be kind to yourself: Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. Would you berate and belittle a friend for trying their best? So, stop beating yourself up or overly criticizing your work.
  4. Seek professional help if needed: If you find you can’t break out of the perfectionism/low self-esteem cycle on your own, seek professional help. Therapy can be highly effective in these areas.

2. Aim for Good Enough

The problem with perfectionism is that it prevents growth.

That’s because a person striving for perfection never accepts the where they’re at.

Ask yourself: Is my writing good enough?

Imagine accepting your writing exactly as it is right now. This includes recognizing where you could have done better.

When you accept even the parts you don’t like, it helps you discover what you need to learn to become a better writer.

So, put in your best effort and your writing will improve, gradually.

And perfectionism becomes a thing of the past.

3. Get Out of Your Head

It’s easy to get stuck in your head, thinking that every word must be perfect before you can move on.

But this mindset is counterproductive, and it can actually lead to writer’s block. The truth is, no one’s writing is perfect, and the sooner you can accept that, the better.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid overthinking and get out of your head:

  • Whenever you notice yourself lost in thought, take several deep breaths and focus on your body. This will get you very present and it’s difficult to overthink when you’re present.
  • Silence your inner critic. If you start criticizing your work in your head, STOP. Literally tell your inner voice to stop. This will quiet your mind and enable you to finish your writing.
  • Take breaks often. If you’re feeling stuck, take a walk or try a breathing exercise. Sometimes all you need is a break from the task at hand to refresh your mind.
  • Remember that done is better than perfect. Your goal should be to finish your project, not to create something that’s perfect. So don’t let perfectionism stand in your way.

4. Avoid All or Nothing Thinking

All or nothing thinking causes us to think that if our writing isn’t perfect, then it must be terrible.

This can paralyze us into a state of fear if we’re not striving for perfection.

Instead of thinking in black and white terms, try to adopt a more flexible mindset. Remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect writing, only as good as it can be in this present moment.

If you can learn to accept your writing for what it is, you’ll find it easier to let go of your perfectionist tendencies and simply enjoy the process of writing.

Who knows, you might even surprise yourself with what you are capable of producing.

5. Make Mistakes on Purpose

If you’re the kind of person who can’t stand to make a mistake, you may avoid writing altogether because you don’t want to produce anything less than perfect.

make mistakes on purpose
Photo by George Becker from Pexels

The problem with this approach is that it’s impossible to produce perfect work. No matter how hard you try, there will always be room for improvement.

So instead of striving for perfection, aim for imperfect action.

Start by giving yourself permission to make mistakes. Write with the intention of producing something good, but don’t get too hung up on whether it’s perfect.

To help overcome my own perfectionism, my therapist asked me to make mistakes on purpose.

This was a daunting experience, but it worked.

I started doing things like using the wrong card in shops, getting people’s names wrong, and accidentally (purposely) tripping up over my own feet.

The build up to these things was terrifying, but when I did them, nothing frightening happened at all.

It was all in my mind.

So, trying a practice like this is a very freeing experience.

Try it and you might just find it easier to overcome perfectionism in writing.

6. Always Write in Sprints

One of the best ways to overcome perfectionism while writing is to use a creativity technique known as a writing sprint.

Sprints involve setting a timer for a specific amount of time and then writing non-stop for that period of time. Once the timer goes off, you can stop writing and rest, knowing that you’ve done your best for that session.

A Writing Sprint is an effective way to stop perfectionism because it forces you to focus on the task at hand and not on getting every single detail perfect.

It also allows you to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time, which can help boost your confidence and keep you from getting bogged down in the editing process.

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, give sprint writing a try. It just might be the productivity boost you need to get your writing done.

7. Stop Starting Things and Get Better at Finishing

One of the most difficult things about being a perfectionist is finishing things.

For us, it’s easy to start projects. In fact, you probably have a dozen half-finished projects taking up space in your head right now.

But finishing things is another story.

Part of the problem is that you have difficulty knowing when something is good enough. You keep tinkering with it, trying to make it perfect, until you finally give up in frustration.

Then you seek comfort in starting something new. It’s familiar, but new and exciting.

Another part of the problem is that you tend to lose interest in projects once you realize they’re not perfect. Why finish something if it’s not going to be perfect, right!?

Here are some tips to help you overcome these challenges and start finishing things:

  • Start with the end in mind. What does done look like? When you know what done looks like, it’s easier to know when something is good enough.
  • Break projects down into small, manageable steps. Don’t do everything at once. Focus on one thing at a time and you’ll be less overwhelmed and more likely to finish.
  • Set deadlines for yourself, even if they’re unrealistic. Having a deadline will force you to focus and get the work done.
  • Get accountability from someone else. Find a friend or family member who will hold you accountable for finishing what you start.
  • Focus on the process, not the outcome. Instead of worrying about whether or not something is perfect, focus on enjoying the process all the way to the end.

Conclusion: How to Stop Perfectionism in Writing

To overcome perfectionism in writing, you have to put things into practice.

The best advice is to start slow and be patient with yourself. Try doing one of these tips at a time and keep practicing for a few weeks.

Another great tip that has helped me is to keep a journal.

If you’re a blogger, you’ll also find my post time management for bloggers helpful.

Image by jannoon028 on Freepik

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