Every writer wants to be perfect. Not only do we have the passion and drive to create, but we agonize over every word we type and whether or not it serves the overall story. Every edit – small or large – is meant to smooth away the rough edges. If it doesn't feel right, we refuse to stop working on it until we get it right. It's perfectionism at its finest. And we unapologetically march forward with that mindset, especially as we try to grow our writing business.
It doesn't matter if it’s a sports article, a political piece, a blog, website copy, or a feature on a local business. We are storytellers and want to get the story right in every possible way.
The finished piece needs to be PERFECT.
And again, that's OK. But only to a point.
Recognize When Your Perfectionism Is Hurting You.
God forbid if there is even the tiniest mistake – grammatical or factual – in any of our written work. Even if no one else was anal enough to spot the error, the bottom line is we are in a business where having everything perfect is paramount.
If an error slips through, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
This is a daily struggle for me. I legitimately expect perfection with everything I do. So what’s the answer when we aren't perfect? After all, writers AND editors are human, too! Mistakes happen. We miss stuff. Those imperfections make us who we are – human.
Here are five ways to handle perfectionism as you grow your writing business.
Know the difference between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism.
I feel like my perfectionist tendencies make me the solid writer that I am today. I care about what I put my name on and how I represent clients with my writing business. My creativity allows me to break free from robotic writing and captivate a reader as best I can. More often than not, I write clean copy. If I'm editing, I try to be perfect at that, too. That’s healthy perfectionism. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get it right. The unhealthy part is letting one error out of 10 articles ruin your entire day, week, month, or year.
Overcoming that is easier said than done. But if you can recognize the difference, it will allow you to take a step back and perhaps keep everything in perspective. Errors don't define you as a writer unless you allow them to.
Retrace your steps to find out where you went wrong.
Remember when you lost your car keys, and your mom said, "Retrace your steps. Where do you last remember having them?" The same can be said when improving your writing and editing skills. The first thing I do when I find a mistake in my writing is to analyze it constructively. I ask myself how it happened and what the circumstances were. Was I rushing? Was I trying to juggle too many things at once? Were there distractions? What happened?
More importantly, I figure out how I can avoid it in the future. Instead of letting it dominate my thoughts, I look back to see where I went wrong.
Don’t dwell on the mistakes. Instead, praise your successes.
Dwelling on the negative never helped anyone. Do you think retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning focused on the number of interceptions he threw in his final year or the fact that he helped his team win the Super Bowl? We can’t all have a perfect game as writers and editors. You should consider the positives and how you just published another piece of work. You should be thinking about all the positive responses from readers and the pat on the back from your editor. Praise your successes, and enjoy the process of chasing a goal.
Talk to other writers.
No one understands the mind of a writer struggling with unhealthy perfectionism like another perfectionist writer. A fellow writer can be a great source of compassion, constructive criticism, and perspective. They can also offer relatable and actionable tips to help you avoid errors in the future.
Writing and editing are supposed to be fun – especially when you own a writing business. You were meant to do this. I’m doing what I love, and if you are too, you should remind yourself often of that fact. Think about that, and cut yourself some slack.
Need Some Writing Business Tips? Call Edit This!
I feel an incredible sense of responsibility to share with other writers and editors who are just starting out on their own what worked for me, what didn't, what I wish I did differently, and everything in between. This way, they can start their writing business faster and with more confidence than I ever had all those many years ago.
A writing consulting and coaching professional works collaboratively with a writer to help take their passion for writing from a hobby to a successful freelance writing career. We aren’t your editor, writer, ghostwriter, or second set of eyes, and we won’t take the steps toward small-business ownership for you. But we will coach you through getting that business started, including giving you practical advice, actionable step-by-step instructions, accountability and structure, and anything else we can do to help you overcome obstacles that may pop up.
Everything starts with a FREE 30-minute call. From there, you’ll have three 45-60-minute phone, Zoom, or in-person sessions per month, where we provide customized step-by-step instructions to keep you on track and turn your hobby into a successful writing business.
There are hundreds of ways to flex your creative writing muscles and build a successful freelance writing business. And we want to help.
Thank you for reading!
STEVE GAMEL is the President & Owner of Edit This®, a writing and editing services company in Denton, TX. He is also a consultant and coach and the author of Write Like You Mean It: Mastering Your Passion for the Written Word. Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.