The Struggle with Perfectionism

I’m certain many writers, if not all, have experienced perfectionism.

I recently tweaked my submissions fifteen times before I was somewhat satisfied, deleting and inserting words and re-structuring sentences, but deciding that it was done came only when exhaustion crept in. You know the feeling: you find yourself looking at the screen for so long that you don’t realise five hours have passed. You’re somehow too tired to move yet agitated enough to pace. You might even pray that the abyss you’re staring into sucks you in like a black hole.

However, sometimes wisdom comes along and tells you you’re not alone. I came across the article “How to Defeat Your Perfectionism in Writing” by Ruthanne Reid when scouting for advice. In short, it says you need to move on and accept that, while nothing will be perfect, you did your best. I’ve told myself that for as long as I can remember, but, of course, when someone else says it you start to believe it.

Things I’ve taken upon myself to help enforce that belief include new and existing things.

I now use deadlines after never doing so before, giving me a stronger confidence with stopping editing before it becomes excessive and taxing. I’ll take a break when things get intense, showering or napping, binging Netflix or sticking my head outside for fresh air. I try to recognise growth within my style or method or process, seeing it as evolving instead of changing or failing.

Most of all, I remember why I became a writer.

There’s no doubt perfectionism will always be lurking in the background, but it’s wrong if it thinks it will win every time.

13 thoughts on “The Struggle with Perfectionism

  1. Audra Edmonson says:

    Yes yes yes! I’ve been battling perfectionism hard this year; in writing and in life, because it’s so toxic wherever it’s found. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. In fact, I recently read a book, How to Be an Imperfectionist, that was so incredibly helpful in overcoming it. I’ve been using it mainly to help with my anxiety, but it’s also so good for writing and creative work as well. I think more writers (and more people) need to hear the message that perfectionism is not the “perfect weakness” but an actual roadblock to success.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Kat says:

      Yes, you’re absolutely right about it being a roadblock. It can be so damaging, but once you alter your mindset about it, you’re on a more promising route – and an enjoyable one, like it used to be! I’ll have to check this book out. I’ve been meaning to find more reading material on writing.

  2. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Deadlines sound like such a good way to stop falling into the issue of perfectionism (which I’ll admit, I find easy to do) And I think remembering why you became a writer in the first place is a good point. Really great post!

  3. cljepsen says:

    A lot of people struggle with attempting to achieve perfection, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. They key is to strive towards perfection, while remaining aware that it is rarely possible. Great article lady!

  4. Andrea Wold Johansen says:

    Yeah, trying to do your best is always great, but striving for unrealistic perfection isn’t productive at all, and definitely quenches that first burst of creativity.. Great post! x

    • Kat says:

      Thank you! Absolutely. Nothing worse than stemming the creativity, so focusing on realistic expectations is a must.

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