By publishing this post on my blog today, I am entering the writing contest, “Overcoming Writer’s Doubt” held by Positive Writer. Whether you are a writer, a creative-type, or just a Type A struggling with perfectionism, I hope you will pick up a few weapons here for your fight.
A few years ago, I had an epiphany. It was during a time in my life when I was dealing with a tremendous amount of uncertainty and a very painful transition in nearly every possible way. All the jacked-up parts of my life, which I had worked night and day to conceal, were all at once wide-open.
Yet on the heels of that pain, vulnerability, and exposure, I was feeling remarkably creative. Unprecedentedly confident. And it hit me:
I quit being afraid of being wrong.
Confronting failure in my life made me realize, I had been exhausting myself with perfectionism. Perfectionism is riddled with fear and doubt. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of what other’s may think. It causes you to doubt yourself and your abilities. It limits your creativity because you are afraid to put yourself out there.
For me personally, writer’s doubt—like any doubt—stems from perfectionism. It grips you. It stops you in your tracks in that kind of paralysis that heightens every other sense you have, but immobilizes you from taking action. So you stand there, fully alive, but too numb to move. You have this uncanny sense of what is true and real. It’s rapidly coursing through your veins, fueled by adrenaline and passion. But you feel helpless to release it. You open your mouth, but no sounds escape. You hold the pen, but no words form.
Instead, you think of all the reasons you can’t do this. All the doubts get louder than the truths. Fear cages creativity. It kills freedom of expression. I work to overcome writer’s doubt when I decide to quit being afraid of being wrong. |Click to Tweet|
Perfectionism destroys creativity.
Creativity is messy. Perfectionism is measured. Creativity says, “Let’s finger paint!” Perfectionism says, “Well…then we’d get paint all over our hands.” For years, perfectionism kept me from creating because I feared the messy process. Sometimes, I still fear what others may think. I fear being unoriginal, or uninspiring. I fear the sound of my own voice. But then, I tell myself, screw fear. |Click to Tweet|
I don’t want to be perfect. I want to be authentic. If someone doesn’t like my writing, that’s cool. They are not my target audience. And I believe that. Perfectionism and the need for approval drive someone like me to get it all right, all the time. It’s exhausting. So, I had to come to a place of maturity in my life where I determined that I value my own dreams and gifts more highly than others’ approval of them—or of me.
I collect weapons to defeat doubt and annihilate my need for approval.
I’d like to sound genius here. But the truth is, when it comes to writing, if the voices of fear and doubt are ringing in my ears, I simply fight back. I collect other voices, other words, that pierce through the lies, and speak truth to my heart. Here are a few of my weapons to overcome writer’s doubt:
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day,
to make you everybody else,
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.
When we are comfortable with who we are,
we cease to be uncomfortable with who we are not.
Kevin Hall, Aspire
I must admit, I have been Facebook stalking you for the last several months…
You have a way of writing that shares your heart without making it over-dramatic.
I have found that some of the things you have written…are a very good description
of some of the very things I am experiencing…in my life.
Keep being the person God created you to be, not the person others expect you to be.
A Facebook Stalker/Friend
I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken,
made verbal, and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.
Never be bullied into silence.
Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.
Harvey S. Firestone
Third time I’ve read it. I must need this.
A follower on my blog
Better to write for yourself and have no public,
than to write for the public and have no self.
And I have a “Badass Playlist” for the days I need reminding I got this. It includes songs like:
Brave, Sara Barielles
Unwritten, Natasha Beddingfield
You Gotta Be, Des’ree
I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor (Yeah, if I’m playing this one, I’m pulling out the big guns.)
And a clip I embedded in my toolbar for encouragement:
Keep Creating, Ira Glass
Steal any of these you want. I’ll share my weapons. But this one is especially for you, my friend:
You may succeed if nobody else believes in you,
but you will never succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.
John Maxwell, Put Your Dream to the Test
So, how do you overcome writer’s doubt?
Use your faith.
Use your fight.
Use your words.
6 thoughts on “Overcoming Writer’s Doubt: Fighting Perfectionism”
The quote by Cyril Connolly is among my favorites:
“Better to write for yourself and have no public,
than to write for the public and have no self.”
Indeed, perfectionism does destroy creativity.
Blessings and best wishes in everything.
Thank you, Debra. I enjoyed your submission as well. Excellent metaphor with the phases of the moon. Best of luck to you!
Oh, Andria, this was good!
Thank you, Bryan. That means a lot coming from you.
I loved the john maxwell quote at the end. I just heard that same thing yesterday and was really encouraged by it. Oh my and what truth it is when you said “I quit being afraid of being wrong”. It’s so hard to really stop being afraid of it, but it’s the trying at it that makes me better about doing it. 🙂
This was great Andria. Thank you!
Thank you, Chelsea. You’re right…it’s not easy. But that’s what makes us “recovering,” right? LOL! Congratulations on placing in the contest! You’ve written a great post, and it’s such an honor to be guest posted on Positive Writer. Best wishes!