Don’t let perfectionism strangle your creativity

Ever hit a moment of frustration when you just can’t seem to get a sentence or a passage to sound right? The result is a brain freeze. You keep working at the line, though, only to suffer through the penning of seemingly even worse lines or passages.

The problem likely is that you are overly judgmental of your own work. To a degree, that is a good thing, as it means you hold your writing to a high standard, and the result is you then produce above average pieces.

If you produce at all, of course…

Taken to an extreme, perfectionism can lead you to never finish a task through constant rewriting, procrastination, or not even writing at all.

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways you overcome perfectionistic tendencies when writing:
• Focus on improving – Writers typically get better with time, so think of your initial writing efforts as the warm-up or the first quarter in a game; it’s those writings when you hit your stride during the two-minute warning or on the winning drive at game’s end that will be your best work. In short, acknowledge that not all of your writing will be published, but if you keep at it, some of it will rise to the status of being publishable.
• Give yourself permission to write a first draft – Acknowledge that the first time a line is written, it won’t be perfect. Sure, sometimes it is, and that talent is what inspired you to write a short story, novel or self-help book. But a few of the lines that follow may be less than perfect, and that’s okay. Simply accept that you later will revise your manuscript.
• Recognize that your writing is better than you think – Sometimes you just need to get words and ideas on paper and then walk away from them. When you come back to the writing in a week or a month, you probably will be delightfully surprised at how good it actually was, and you’ll likely have a more objective perspective that allows you to quickly resolve problem lines or passages.
• Establish artificial deadlines – Philosophically speaking, some believe a piece of art is never finished, and writers/musicians/painters, etc. often want to revise their works. There would be no novels, songs or paintings if the creating of a piece didn’t just stop and release their work to the world, though. You don’t want to revise forever. You can set a deadline of when you will finish a work…and you probably will be surprised by how much your writing actually impresses others!


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.