I’ve had a few emails from newsletter readers about writing and perfectionism. Like most writers, I’ve spent more time than I’d like to confess worrying over a single sentence. The truth is, perfection is an illusion. As writers we can only write as perfectly as we can in the moment. Two years from now you’ll probably be able to write even better – but today isn’t the future.

I’ve written a handful of magazine articles that are among the best words I’ve ever strung together. I’m immensely proud of them AND I know that today I could make them even better.  Anne Lamott (who I seem to be frequently quoting these days) wrote:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

So, dear reader, is perfectionism keeping you from writing your heart? Leave a comment if it is.

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Tickle my brain . . . sounds great for inspiring new ideas, but how?

  • read a new genre (vampire romance)
  • ask my waitress about her favorite eatery
  • try a new ice cream flavor (whiskey prune?)
  • reverse my walking route
  • take a nap (zzzzzz)
  • stay up all night
  • write flash non-fiction (500 words or less)
  • read this post by Jessica Macbeth
  • get in the car and allow your curiosity to take you where it will

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Bird by Bird author Anne Lamott said it best:

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.

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