Fear of writing and perfectionism in writing is as common as people who sign emails love and light.
And more avoidable.
Did you know…
You can train your brain to love writing?
Or at the very least, not have a fear of writing.
And yes, you can rid yourself of perfectionism in writing, too.
In all my writing programs and coaching, the first thing I teach is how to make it emotionally safe to write.
Did you know…
“The more pressure you put on yourself, the higher your anxiety level rises and the more writing becomes a signal of danger, which transmits a message straight to your limbic system, triggering fight-or-flight reactions. When that happens, the limbic system stops forwarding messages to the cortex, which is where conscious thought, imagination, and creativity are generated. Instead, your amygdala releases stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and soon, your heart rate is skyrocketing, your ability to feel emotionally safe enough to write is eroded, and your ability to concentrate vanishes.”
Susan Reynolds, Fire up Your Writing Brain
This means you must make it a habit to calm down before writing, during writing, and when you are procrastinating writing!
Use your breath and body to rid yourself of the fear of writing and writing perfectionism.
Rewire your Brain to Eliminate your Fear of Writing
Use your body and breath to make it easier to write with less fear and perfectionism.
- Box breathing or triangle breathing will help with writing perfectionism and fear of writing.
- Or put your hand on your heart, take a few deep breaths while focusing on longer exhales and repeating to yourself “Nobody has to read what I’m writing.”
- Or dance to a favorite song while focusing on breathing and shaking off fear of writing.
- If you practice yoga or qigong, do a favorite asana or exercise before writing or while writing to evict fear from your writing brain.
You can add a few what-if affirmations as you settle in to write, or have a simple ritual that reminds you it’s safe to put your voice on the page–some people listen to the same playlist, others light a candle, some writers recite a prayer or invocation.
- “What if I can write with ease?
- “What if I can say what I need to say good enough for this round?”
- “What if I can easily concentrate and get down my chunks of writing for today?
- “What if it’s safe to say exactly what I want?”
Don’t expect angels to appear and write your pages for you.
Instead, track how over time it gets easier to write with less fear and perfectionism.
List your Fears of Writing
Another way to rewire your brain is to journal about your fears of writing and your writing perfectionism so that you can get some distance from them.
Try journaling for four days in a row for up to 20 minutes describing your bad experiences or fearful or perfectionistic memories you have around writing. Describe them simply and as factually as you can.
Note: if doing this brings up any trauma response or worsens symptoms of depression or anxiety, stop.
Then go back and cross out any fears or doubts that are not yours. Perhaps an editor or ex-partner said something hurtful or a friend tossed out a comment that has stuck. But these aren’t yours to carry anymore. Cross them out!
Now ask yourself, “Do I have the resources to deal with these fears?” If not, develop more! You do not have to write alone.
Ask Yourself this Simple Question to Stay out of Fear and Perfectionism
“Is it more important for me to honor my fears and perfectionism today or my creative truth?”
A related question I ask my clients when they are afraid to share their voice or build their writer’s platform is
“What matters more? Your fear of sharing your writing and ideas or the impact your writing can have in the world?”
From the national best-selling author of The Woman’s Comfort Book and Why Bother.
5 Ways to Start
Your Non-Fiction Book
You can write your book faster, easier, and better.
I’ve written 9 books with about a million copies sold.
I’m not one of those creepy people who make it hard to unsubscribe or email you again nine years after you’ve unsubscribed. Giving me your email is like a coffee date, not a marriage proposal.
Write in a Creative Castle
If fear of writing or writing perfectionism is keeping you from writing what you must write, then imagine yourself writing someplace removed from the world – a castle with a moat filled with critic-eating crocodiles or a snug cabin, fire crackling, snow falling, off the grid or a luxurious sailboat bobbing in the Caribbean ocean.
Teach your brain to remember that what you write does not need to be shared until you decide it does.
But if you don’t get it on the page, you’ll have nothing to work with, no truth to shape into something that can change lives.
I wrote hundreds of pages of material that never made it into Why Bother? both because I wasn’t comfortable sharing it and because it didn’t help the premise of the book.
But I could never have written the best book I’ve ever written if I hadn’t made it safe to write everything first.
Perfectionism in Writing (and life!) is an Unattainable Goal
As Brene Brown says (did you know I’m quoted in two of her books?), “Perfectionism is an unattainable goal. It’s more about perception than internal motivation, and there is no way to control perception, no matter how much time and energy is spent trying.”
The best way to get free of perfectionism while writing is to stop and feel your reason for writing that day.
- Why am I writing today?
- Why does writing this matter to me today?
We are taught to write as a performance in school and that leads to perfectionism and fear of writing.
I have to get the grade! I have to do it right!
But everytime you tune in to what matters to you and feel into it, let yourself feel your why rather than think it, you stoke your internal motivation and generate good brain juice, aka neurotransmitters.
It doesn’t mean you don’t want a particular outcome –be published! Save the world! Make millions! Be on podcasts! – but that you realize you can’t control getting said outcome and that you can always control how you show up.
Learn to the Love the Ugly to Banish Fear of Perfectionism
Perfectionism leads you to believe that everything that you write should be flawless or close to it.
It doesn’t help that everything you read that has been published has gone through multiple drafts often with lots of help from editors and readers yet you forget that when you’re writing and compare your work to that kind of glossy resplendence.
Even calling your work a “shitty first draft” can subtly increase your perfectionism and fear of writing because it’s a judgment and a comparison to what you think it should already be — done and dog gone perfect.
By learning to love – or at least appreciate–every stage or “layer” of words as perfect for what they are right now – you train yourself to have compassion and patience for your writing.
And patience is the key to writing anything other people want to read.
You begin to regard your words as treasured raw materials to be sculpted over time into more of what you want (notice I did not say exactly what you want because perfect is what? unattainable).
The Courageous Quote
Fear of writing and writing perfectionism can make telling your stories and sharing your ideas as tricky as choosing a restaurant with your group of gluten-free dairy-free paleo vegan friends.
Read this when your fear of writing is caterwauling and your perfectionism is joining in and you can’t hear yourself think.
“The purpose of being a serious writer is not to express oneself, and it is not to make something beautiful, though one might do those things anyway. Those things are beside the point. The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair. If you keep that in mind always, the wish to make something beautiful or smart looks slight and vain in comparison. If people read your work and, as a result, choose life, then you are doing your job.”
Here’s to cultivating the mind and heart of a courageous writer!