Now, there are times when it is useful to strive for perfectionism. Doing taxes or bookkeeping, for example. Or installing electrical wires.
But those are not creative endeavors. These are tasks where you must get it right. And getting it right means to follow the rules exactly.
Following the rules, however, is a killer when it comes to writing, painting or any other creative task.
That’s because it forces our inner critic to take over and make sure we’re doing everything right. And you know yourself how disrupting this can be.
Why do we bring perfectionism to our writing?
Because that’s how we have been taught to approach every serious task. And quite often, we take our writing serious, as well.
Basically, that’s a misunderstanding created way back in our childhood. We’ve been taught in school to follow rules and not deviate from them. We learned how to write and spell – and yes, that does take quite a bit of perfectionism to get it right in English!
So we grew up striving to do everything right and in the correct way. Aiming to be perfect.
Yet creativity doesn’t work that way. It’s not a linear process, and it follows far fewer rules. In fact, knowing and then breaking the rules is a huge part of it. Creativity relies on surprising moments, happy accidents and thinking (and coloring!) outside of the box.
Stuff we’ve been trained to avoid as kids.
How do we get perfectionism out of our writing?
That is the big question and task for every author. Basically, we need to shift from “responsible mode” and trying to get everything right into “play mode”, where no rules and boundaries exist.
And we need to do this every time we settle down to actually add words to our project.
We also need to pull ourselves out of it once we start editing. Or while we’re working on the business aspect of our author life.
In other words, we need to practice switching our perfectionism on and off.
People do that all the time.
Really? I can see you stare in disbelief.
It’s true, however.
You switch off perfectionism when you go read a book. Because you want to dive into that story and not nitpick plot points and word choice.
You switch off perfectionism when you play a game. Children do it all the time, we all have that ability.
You may have to practice it for a while, since you focused on being in “serious mode” for most of your adult life.
Enter Play Mode
But you can enter “play mode” when you sit down to write. You actually should.
Maybe you need to plan the scene a little before you dive in. Maybe you need some lines for your game. And that’s fine. It’s your job to figure this out.
“Play mode” is just another word for being creative. Words flow much more easily in “play mode”.
Learning to switch it on will increase your productivity a lot. (And I can help you with that.) Doing so means letting go of old beliefs and limiting thought patterns.
EFT tapping is a great tool to release limiting beliefs around “play mode” and around who is allowed to enter it. So here are some suggestions.
Even though I learned that “play mode” is not something adults do, and certainly not something serious authors do, I’m totally okay the way I am, and I now choose to experiment with “play mode” during my writing.
Even though I still think that “play mode” has no place in serious writing and an author business, I’m totally okay the way I am, and I now give myself permission to experiment with “play mode” during my writing time.
Even though I was taught that “play mode” has no place in serious business, and I am taking my writing seriously, I’m still totally okay the way I am, and I now choose to release all those old rules and try out “play mode” for my creative time.
*image source F. Möbius
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Perfectionism is something I’m struggling with myself. I “finished” the third book in my series over a year ago, but it’s sitting on my hard drive gathering dust because I need to cut out a sub-plot and the task is so daunting — what if I replace it with something worse? What if the story doesn’t flow? What if the whole book is a dud and I should just start from scratch? Etc. I like this idea of entering play mode. Will definitely be trying it out 🙂
First of all, keep a copy of the file you have now. Keep it safe. That way, you can always fall back on it.
Second, give yourself permission to have fun. That’s difficult when all those fears raise their heads, but sometimes, it’s just that – allowing yourself to have fun. That does open the creative doors, but we have been taught that editing and rewriting must be horrible chores.
And finally: What if this could go easily? What if the story is so much better after your editing? What if this could be great?