by Karen Dodd, March 14, 2013
I don’t know whether you’ve ever suffered from “paralysis by analysis,” or observed someone who has, but it’s not a pretty sight! From the gut-wrenching process of trying to make decisions, to chronic procrastination and wanting to have everything perfectly aligned before getting a project started, I struggled terribly with perfectionism.
That is until I became a full-time writer.
In Anne Lamott’s ground-breaking book on writing, Bird by Bird, she says the only way to get anything written is to write really, really sh**ty first drafts.
I believe the same holds true in anything you do. Before you can get good at something, you have to be bad – or least far from perfect.
It Will Never Be the Right Time or Be Perfectly Finished
In case you haven’t already discovered this, let me tell you — whether it’s writing a book, building a business or planning a family, you will never have all your ducks in a row. If ducks don’t do it for you, think about trying to herd cats.
A few years ago, one of my mentors told me, “Karen, sometimes good is good enough.” Whew! That’s not at all what I learned from my parents but you have no idea how liberating that advice was. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this article, your idea of ‘good enough’ is probably most others’ perception of ‘perfect.’ As the saying goes, we’re often our own worst critics.
To avoid overwhelm and procrastination in your writing, implement just one new idea — imperfectly. That will always produce better results than not getting started until the conditions are perfect.
ACTION Always Trumps PERFECTION
Thoughts create feelings, feelings create action, action produces results, and results help you gain more confidence. Action is really the only part of the equation you can control. It’s difficult to control your thoughts and feelings (remember those unruly cats?) and it’s impossible to control the results, but you can 100 percent control your actions. Great news, don’t you think?
Do you ever wonder why writers who might not produce work that is up to your standards seem to have have more fun while doing it? Perhaps you’ve read a book (or an trilogy that will remain unnamed) and thought, if he/she can get published why can’t I? What does her book have that I don’t?
The Answer Is In the Question
As writers, sometimes we worry so much about wanting to produce exemplary work that we do exactly nothing —zero — nada. It can happen at the creative, or the submission stage.
I love what successful YA writer, Eileen Cooksaid at a writer’s conference last year. She was lamenting that she didn’t want to submit her finished manuscript to agents and publishers for fear of rejection and not getting published. Her friend pointed out the obvious in saying, “Eileen, I hate to tell you this but you’re already not published!” Eileen has gone on to author a number of successful novels. But, it all started with that first one.
Your Assignment Should You Choose to Accept It:
- Implement the ’72-hour Rule.’ What idea for improving your writing have you learned, more than 72 hours ago and haven’t yet implemented? If it was important enough for you to make a written or mental note of it, it’s something you should take action on. Make it a point to implement just one good idea in the next 72 hours. Don’t analyze or over-think it; just do it!
- Finish something. What writing project have you started in the last year that if you got it finished — even imperfectly — would move you forward? Instead of being overwhelmed by so many great ideas and not knowing where to start, just pick one (or one aspect of it) and run with it. Give yourself an ‘unrealistic’ time line and resolve to finish and implement it by that date no matter what!
- Think well of yourself. Just like any other muscle, your ‘perfection muscle’ will get stronger, or atrophy with lack of use. Let it atrophy! There is a great line from author, Geneen Roth, “…awareness is learning to keep yourself company. And then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage.” That’s you! You’re an awesome writer.
I’ll leave you with advice I received personally from best-selling author, Diana Gabaldon. “Number one, finish the book no matter how bad it is. Number two, make it as good as you can.” I have that printed out in huge bold letters and taped above my computer screen.
Do you have a favorite way of overcoming perfectionism or procrastination in your writing? Why not share it? I’d love to hear from you. Please click here to comment.
Article written by Karen Dodd
Author / Columnist, Entrepreneurial Woman Magazine
Notice: This article is copyrighted material. Reproduction of brief snippets of this article with a link to this site are permitted, but it may not be reproduced in full anywhere without the written permission of Karen Dodd at KarenDodd.com
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