8 Ways To Avoid Writer’s Perfectionism

Write now, edit later.

Maddie Rose
7 min readMar 3, 2020

For a perfectionist, the writing process can consist more of deleting and re-writing than actually expanding and producing new content.

Imagine how much more work us perfectionists would get done if we spent that time writing instead of editing the same sentence over and over? The mind boggles!

Sure, being a perfectionist means that you care about producing great work. But when you’re a perfectionist, you want every word, sentence and paragraph to flow like poetry. You want everything to be perfect, right here and right now. It can be downright exhausting, if not debilitating.

1. Just get it down!

A first draft is the perfectionist’s nemesis. But you need to remember that a first draft is just that, a first attempt to get that story out of your system. It’s allowed to be imperfect.

Trust the process.

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If you’re too scared to start writing because you’re worried it won’t be perfect, you’ll never write anything at all. Sometimes, we are so intent on writing a ‘best seller’ or a ‘viral’ post, that we falter at our expectations. The panic can cause us to freeze, and we often end up writing nothing at all.

You’ll never know if the work you have in mind is going to be good until you give it a red hot crack and put pen to paper. And if it really, truly is crap? Who’s it going to hurt? Chin up and start again, you deserve to live your passion.

2. Separate your creative side from your editor side.

It’s important to treat your writing and editing process as seperate tasks.

This will ensure that you spend your time more productively and effectively, because these processes actually use two separate parts of the brain.

If you’re writing and editing simultaneously, you’ll exhaust your mind far quicker than if you were to just use your creative side first.

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Get everything onto the page.

Try to feel it rather than think it.

Be messy.

Spell things wrong, and don’t be afraid to write badly if you can’t think about how to write it well right now.

Write in half sentences.

Jump from chapter to chapter if you’re not ‘feeling’ a section right now.

Just get it out. Let your creative side loose. Once you’re done, your perfectionist side can come along, gather the mess and make it into something wonderful.

3. Make a plan.

I’m not saying that perfectionists can’t also be ‘pantsers’, but if we want to get all of those perfectionist tendencies out of us before we write, developing a plan can be beneficial. This is where you can shine with your spreadsheets, mind maps and research.

This helps us feel in control when it comes to getting the words out. You’re less likely to hit a wall or doubt yourself midway if you’ve planned in advance.

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4. Remember that just because it isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

We often think that if something isn’t perfect, it’s a failure.

We need to stop this thought process in its tracks, because it’s absolutely debilitating.

If you’re anything like me, you have a HUGE amount of unfinished work.

Mine consists of stories that reached four or five chapters before I gave up. Writing a bad or boring chapter can cause me to doubt myself. Spotting a minor plot hole can make me jump ship to another project.

Everyone’s reasons for quitting can vary — they fear they’re not good enough, that a certain chapter was going no where, that others have done it better than them, that they’re not worthy of success…

There will always be a million reasons under the sun to doubt yourself, but you need to have a little faith in yourself.

If you don’t, who will?

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5. Create time pressures.

Perfectionists can greatly benefit from working under fire.

If you give yourself a specific time limit, deadline or word limit, your focus will switch to a different target. Instead of focusing on writing perfect articles and stories, you’ll aim to reach that deadline.

Your feeling of accomplishment will come from writing x amount of words in x amount of time. You’ll encourage yourself to free write quickly rather than staring at a blinking cursor hoping to write the next best thing.

Try and set a timer for 15 minutes. Write your heart out, don’t stop, don’t re-read and definitely don’t edit.

You may come up with something awesome, or something average. It doesn’t matter — you’ll have something tangible and you can work with that.

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6. Remember that it’s okay to fail.

Perfectionists are more inclined to feel anxious and depressed when it comes to their work. Although most creatives fear failure, rejection and simply producing bad work, perfectionists feel this on a whole other level.

We have to remind ourselves that no one starts off being perfect at anything.

An Oscar winning actor has probably been studying acting since they were a child.

That professional basketball player didn’t pop the ball in a rage of fury during their first training session because they weren’t immediately great.

That surgeon didn’t just walk into a hospital one day knowing how to do a heart transplant.

We rarely see the sweat, tear and failures of others. But everyone has to fail in order to learn and move forward.

Even super successful, best-selling authors will admit to having days or weeks where they produce nothing but trash.

7. Be brave enough to share your work.

We usually want to wait until we feel our work is in its most perfect form before we show it to anyone else. This is rarely helpful.

Being vulnerable enough to show people your work in the early stages is beneficial for so many reasons. Fresh eyes see plot holes and inconsistencies; big-picture items that the writer can often be too close to see.

No one is going to like you less because your story isn’t perfect. They’ll be more impressed (if not inspired) that you wrote it at all.

Writers have a tendency to underestimate themselves, but if you’re passionate about writing and practice frequently, the odds are that you’ll already be in the above average category without realising it.

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8. Don’t compare your work to the work of others.

You’ve just had a burst of inspiration. You’ve written several pages of what you believe is genuinely good work. You’re stoked, this is a massive accomplishment…

And then you pick up someone else’s novel or read someone else’s article and read their great work.

You feel it’s much better than yours.

You feel deflated, and immediately doubt your own accomplishments.

But what you’re reading is usually a final draft of what would have started off as a mess. You haven’t seen the pools of sweat and tears that went into its production, the many different eyes that glanced over the project, the hours and effort that led to the final product.

There’s also enough success in the world to go around. Just because someone else’s work is successful doesn’t mean there’s one less spot available for you.

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9. You’ll never be perfect, so just write!

As perfectionists, we are extra critical of our work. We are critical of our talent and our potential. It would take you a lifetime to be as good of a writer as you want to be, and even that wouldn’t be long enough. Perfection is an illusion, and we need to trust that our work is good enough.

We could spend forever re-writing and re-writing each sentence, paragraph or chapter in hundreds of different ways. We need to know when to draw the line of our perfectionism and simply let something be.

Give yourself a break, because it’s exhausting. Writing is hard enough somedays! Just write. Because if you don’t, you will be depriving people of your work, and that’s the biggest travesty of all.



Maddie Rose

Leaving parties early since 1991. Advertising suit by day.