5 Ways to Beat Perfectionism in Your Writing

The author (left) in 4th grade with her best friend.When I was in elementary school, I had a teacher explain something I’d done to my parents with “Oh, Kim is such a perfectionist!” And all the adults nodded like this was the most logical thing in the world.

When I asked mom later what exactly did that mean, she said that a perfectionist always strives to be the best, to have everything perfect in her work.

And I thought to myself, “Of COURSE I want my work to be perfect! Of COURSE I want it to be my best! Who doesn’t want to be her best?”

Somewhere in my eight-year-old brain, it was like a lightbulb went on: I could be my best.

And then I spent the next decade of my schooling career striving to be the best, most perfect.

What's the difference between striving for excellence vs perfection? Click To Tweet

But here’s the thing…

I’m NOT a perfectionist in the real definition of the world. (Look it up!) Because what my mom said, and what my kiddo self, heard were different: It’s not about being The Best (as in, the best in the class, the school, the world) it’s about being the best ME.

5 reasons to beat perfectionism in your writingThere’s a huge difference between taking professional pride and striving for excellence (or perfection!) than about being somebody who falls apart when things don’t go perfectly. I’m the first to admit that flexible isn’t really a word used to describe me – I’m actually not exactly go with the flow, laid back, or spontaneous.

I love plans, deadlines, clear directions, and measurable goals.

But a lot of times people DO say I am laid back, go with the flow, and easy going.


Because I really don’t panic about having everything PERFECT.

Typos? They happen. Use spell checker, re-read your work, and hire an editor.

Tech challenges? Yep, sometimes the layout of a book isn’t all I wanted it to be. Sometimes the website does NOT function the way it should. Sometimes the subject line on an email isn’t just dumb, I forgot to change it from last week!

Drop the ball – spectacularly? It happens from time to time. Not OFTEN but it happens. Apologize, offer to fix it, and move on.

Life (and writing) is busy, messy, complicated, and has a LOT of moving pieces. Trying to get it all perfect is an exercise in futility.

But striving for YOUR best, being excellent at what you do, taking great professional pride (and having a plan for when it all falls apart) – that’s all 100% possible. So let’s talk about perfectionism in your writing – so you can get off the perfectionism wagon and get the words flowing!

5 tips to get over perfectionism in your writing. #amwriting Click To Tweet

1. Get Over Yourself

I’m sure your momma told you: nobody is perfect, life isn’t fair, and there’s always somebody who is better than you are. Typos – even in the most professional, polished piece – are a fact of life. So tip your hat to mom and remember that perfect just isn’t POSSIBLE on this mortal coil. Get over it. Keep writing.

Strive for excellence - not perfection2. Strive for Excellence

Excellence, on the other hand, is totally achievable. The difference between excellence and perfection is both subtle and massive though. Excellence is being your best – the best you can in that moment. It is NOT comparing the author you are today to the author you were last month, last year, or in college!

3. Crap is Great

It’s 100% okay to write a lot of crap. In fact, it’s expected! Crap is a sign that you’re still practicing, learning, growing. It’s a sign you haven’t given up yet. The trick isn’t to stop written crappy things – it’s to recognize what is actually crap and what has merit. Keep the stuff that has potential and flush the rest.

How much does your opinion matter?4. Your Opinion Is Important

But it’s still an opinion. I’ve worked with authors who thought their stuff was fabulous – and it needed a LOT of work and I’ve worked with authors who thought their stuff was terrible – and it was brilliant. Your writing isn’t nearly as terrible – or as brilliant – as you think it is. Keep writing.

5. The Dead Don’t Care

The thousands of authors who have gone before you really don’t give a fig if you read their book – if you liked it or hated it, if it changed your life or if you used it as a coaster. Because they followed their dream: they wrote. Even if they wanted to change lives with their words, they already did: because the first life a book changes is the author’s.

No matter what you’re struggling with NOW, I guarantee that a meal, a hug, a night’s rest, and a cup of coffee fix just about anything.

Kim Galloway
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