Writer's Block and Stress - part 4: perfectionism

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Perfectionism – It’ll never be good enough! I have a confession to make.

I’m a recovering perfectionist. 

There.  I’ve said it again. It’s out in the open.  Much like procrastination, it’s an evil beast, but it’s worth spending a bit more time on it, just to get it absolutely spot-on, you know?

I often wonder whether this is the writer’s curse.  We all want to create the next literary masterpiece: something which will enthral, inspire, amaze, etc.  This drive leads us to labour over every word; every sentence; every paragraph. Causes us to write and re-write, then edit, then start again.  So much so, that by the end of a long hard day, we have a paragraph written – and we’re still not happy with it, so we promise to give it some real attention again tomorrow.

What’s more, sometimes the masterpiece in our head never gets from our mind onto the paper, because that same perfectionism robs us of self-belief and of the confidence to even lay down those words, thoughts, whatever, onto paper or screen.

There’s an added burden for some here, too. What happens if you have had some success with a previous book, article or series of poems?  What if they received great reviews and heaped praise on your written ability?

Of course this was highly gratifying at the time, and I hope you took the time to enjoy it, but what about the pressure this success piles on for the next piece? What if we can’t live up the expectations of others, and of ourselves? Such fear is a classic symptom amongst successful music artists too.  Many know the fear of releasing the ‘long-awaited, much-anticipated follow up to the platinum selling…’ all too well.

That fear, which in essence manifests itself as the anticipatory stress reaction I have previously written about, can lead to raised stress evels, clouded thinking, blocked creativity, low self-belief and self-confidence and, ultimately a ‘freeze’ (remember fight, flight or freeze?) – in the writer’s case: writer’s block – a crippling inability to produce anything.

Now I’ve given you (and myself) nightmares, let’s get serious.  Perfectionism is no joke.  It can drive us to distraction and illness because it adds so much to our stress levels.  It can also destroy our self-confidence and belief – ‘I have all these ideas, but never seem to be able to progress them,’; ‘I’m hopeless’.

For a writer it can be debilitating.

Next time we’ll explore creative block in more depth, and hopefully find out why we struggle to get those creative juices flowing.  Again, surprise-surprise, stress is at the heart of it.

Tips and tactics will follow (promise; I’ve just got to get them perfect!), but if you have any thoughts or suggestions for how you deal with your perfectionism, please drop a comment (it honestly doesn’t have to be perfect!) and I’ll feature all your suggestions in a later post.

In the meantime, check out Fairground Attraction’s – It’s got to be perfect vid (well, be honest, you were looking for some excuse to procrastinate, weren’t you?!)


SG out

Finding it hard to de-stress, take time-out or switch off?  Check out my free 6-step e-book - 'Emergency Stress CPR'

Dave Algeo, Stressed Guru is a speaker and writer committed to spreading the message - well-being and success need each other.  Get in touch to find out how he can help your organisation develop greater success with wellbeing, or learn more about his speaking and workshops.