4 Easy Tips to Sidestep Perfectionism and Rediscover Joy in Writing

We started talking about perfectionism–and how to bypass it–in last week’s post.

If you haven’t already read it, it takes a deep dive into Tip #1 – Reframe Writing as Playing. You’ll also hear a bit about how perfectionism has held me back from some types of writing (cough**picture books**cough) for waaaaaay too long.

Go take a look, then return here for tips 2 through 4!

Hillary Rettig quote

Tip #2: Remove Artificial Constraints

If you’re feeling stuck, it often helps to broaden your definition of what counts as “writing.”

  • Don’t feel like writing the next scene? Feel free to skip around in the narrative.
  • Not sure where your story is going? Try writing about your writing — journaling about the writing process.
  • Consider making lists to help you brainstorm. For example, list
    • Actions your character might take
    • Words that elicit a specific mood
    • Potential rhymes to serve as reference when stringing words together
  • Or simply select an intriguing entry from your idea log and start freewriting!

Tip #3: Create Artificial Limits

Paradoxically, imposing limits on yourself can sometimes be just as freeing as removing them. For me, limiting the amount of time I’m “allowed” to work on my project builds a sense of excitement and anticipation. Other limits you might consider include:

  • Limiting the scope of what you’re tackling in a particular work session
  • Limiting your writing to a select few writing exercises

Tip #4: End With a Relaxing Break

It’s important to build some type of relaxing break into your schedule shortly after you finish your anti-perfectionism writing session. This serves two purposes.

First, you need to reward yourself. But I’m a grown up, you’re thinking. I don’t need a gold star!

Actually, you do need a gold star. Your “rational self” may be a grown-up, but you’re trying to coax out a more childlike part of your psyche when you write–and that’s the part of your brain that responds well to positive reinforcement. Reward yourself now, and your muse will be more likely to come out and play next time.

The habit of recognizing and lavishly rewarding success is one of your strongest techniques for overcoming perfectionism.” — Hillary Rettig, in The Seven Secrets of the Prolific: the Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writers Block

The second reason for taking a break? By doing so, you prime your mind for inspiration. When you’re relaxed, perhaps a bit zoned out, your subconscious continues playing with ideas. Invite those “ah-ha!” moments by creating space for relaxation and mind-wandering in your schedule.

Did you find this post helpful? Click here to download your FREE PDF of tips for sidestepping perfectionism. Learn to give perfectionism the slip in YOUR writing life–and get rolling on your work-in-progress!

The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know - www.cherylreif.com

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


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