Recently, I got an email from a longtime reader who told me that she struggles with “perfectionism” and “overthinking” whenever she’s writing. Every time she attempts to finish a piece of writing, her brain swirls with something like this:
Yay! I’m almost finished with my new blog post! Except, hmm, wait. Is that sentence grammatically correct? I’m not sure. Also, will this one paragraph offend certain types of people? I don’t want to alienate any potential clients. Also, maybe it’s a little too long. And is it “original” enough? I’m pretty sure there’s already a zillion blog posts on this exact topic, and honestly, they’re probably way better than mine…
Does that sound like the inner dialogue that bounces through your mind when you’re trying to write? Pretty close?
Yup – I’ve been there, too. Here are some perspectives that have helped me to break out of the overthinking paralysis state. I still have moments of word-induced anxiety and intense perfectionism from time to time—I don’t think anyone is completely immune to those feelings—but these reminders really help.
1. Forget about being “perfect” and “delighting everyone.”
If you’re waiting until your writing is “perfect” so that your work will be “universally beloved by every single person on earth,” it’s time to let go of that fantasy. Never. Gonna. Happen.
No matter how skilled you are—and no matter how much love, thoughtfulness, and effort you pour into your writing—some people will love your work, and others won’t. Some of your pieces will connect strongly with your intended audience, and others won’t. Some pieces will generate comments, fan mail, praise, sales, and enrollments, and others: *crickets*
It’s always “hit or miss.” You’re not going to have a “smash-hit success” every single time you hit “publish.” Rather than striving for an unattainable level of perfection, aim for “good enough and DONE.”
2. Choose one point and stick to it.
You create a business plan before you launch a business (ideally, anyway). You create a budget to manage your spending. You set an intention at the beginning of your yoga class. Similarly, you can “set an intention” or “make a plan” before you start writing.
Decide, “What is the main point that I want to bring across?” or “What is the big lesson that I’m trying to impart to my reader?” Choose ONE point and stick to it like superglue.
As you’re writing, if you find yourself rambling, going off on random tangents, or losing track of your original point, STOP. Pause for a sec. Remind yourself what your original point was supposed to be. Then delete, edit, and course-correct—just like picking up a puppy who is wandering off towards the part of the house where he’s not supposed to go. Put that puppy back in his snuggly bed. Good doggy.
If you choose one point and stick to it fiercely, writing becomes much easier, and your first draft will be so much stronger. Which means you’ll spend less time fussing, nitpicking, and “fixing things,” because your first draft will already be pretty darn good!
3. Create an irresistible reward system.
You show up for appointments with clients because you want to get paid. You hit the gym because you want to feel amazing and get fit. You do all kinds of things every day—easy things, and difficult things, too—because you want the “reward” at the end of the process.
The tricky thing is that, when it comes to writing, the “reward” isn’t always immediate. Unless you’re a professional writer (like someone who gets paid to deliver a finished screenplay), writing doesn’t always come with an “instant gratification” type of reward. I suspect that’s why so many entrepreneurs put “writing” in the very last slot on their to-do list, beneath… just about everything else. They just don’t feel a strong enough “reason” to do it.
But that’s too bad, because even though the rewards might not always be instantaneous, writing is so important. It’s how you’re going to connect with new fans, build trust with potential clients, describe your products and services, and build obsession for your brand and your work.
To boost your motivation, I recommend creating a personal reward system for yourself. Maybe you could treat yourself to a massage after you crank out 3 blog posts. Or maybe you get to binge-watch ridiculous dance movies (like Step Up and Step Up 2) all weekend long, as long as you send out your email newsletter TODAY. Come up with whatever type of irresistible, guilty pleasure, must-have reward makes sense for you.
When there’s a delicious reward waiting for you, you might feel miraculously motivated to finish your project ASAP, hit “publish,” and move on with your day! That frustrating urge to nitpick and overanalyze every single sentence might disappear… once you’ve got a 6pm massage scheduled on your calendar. 🙂
That’s all for today! This newsletter is officially done (hooray!) which means it’s time to indulge in one of my fave guilty pleasures: watching an episode of the new HBO series The Young Pope (OMG – have you seen it? It’s nuts). That’s my big reward for today’s productive work sesh!
Now hit the keyboard, finish your latest writing project, don’t over-stress about it, and then enjoy your reward, too.