It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the purpose of which is to share your own writerly insecurities, offer guidance, and encourage others in the wonderful online writing community we’re in. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! This wonderful project is brought to you by Alex J. Cavanaugh and co-hosted this month by Gwen Gardner, Dolorah, Sarah Foster, and M. Pax! 





This is what you should do. 

In order to be successful you must…

There is so much advice out there in the world, and in the writing world in particular, about how to do it all right. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the how-to’s, must-do’s, and best practices that need to happen in order to make everything perfect. As if there were only one way. As if there were a right path. If you made a list of all the things you “should be doing” in order to find success and make it all perfect, it’d be a mile long, and growing daily!

At the root of this issue is a desire to do your best, to get your best work out there. And that’s a good thing. Last year, I found myself in the throes of this. I was struggling with all these internal battles about how make my book the best it can be, how to plan the perfect launch, how to sell a million copies and take over the internet.

But while fighting for time to get all my ducks in a row and trying to make everything go exactly right, I felt totally out of sorts. I was forcing it. I couldn’t get my head around all of the things I had to get done and found the whole process of writing and publishing and marketing to be completely overwhelming. I am usually pretty mindful of letting things happen organically. But somehow I found myself tangled in this crazy cloud of “should be doing” that was making me nuts. Then I had a conversation with a friend of mine about her website and things changed. Oddly, it was something I’d known all along.

Back in the day when I was a graphic and web designer, I’d meet with clients to discuss their new website and their business and their plans. I’d consult on marketing, and help them develop a plan to transition. So when a friend asked for help with this stuff, I put on my consulting hat and helped them see things more clearly. One thing I almost always tell someone when they seem overwhelmed by launching a new website (and it happens a lot, that feeling of being overwhelmed) is:

Start where you are. 

Don’t worry about getting it all perfect from the launch. It’s enough to design the site, let alone fill it with new content and develop relationships in your community to help broaden your reach. You don’t need to wait until you have all the pieces in place. Why not start where you are and build from there? The beauty of this is that it’s all fluid and you can build and learn as you go.

Start where you are. 

Then I realized this applied to me, too. It applies to most situations. When I let that sink in to my own feelings of overwhelm, those feelings fell away. I was instantly in a different frame of mind. Suddenly had permission to step back, to do what’s working, and move forward without this pressure. Granted, all the things that needed to happen still had to happen, but my mindset was changed. I’d turned off that ticking mental time bomb.

Talk about liberating.

This morning, as I was juggling life and writing and schedules and plans. I reminded myself to take a step back and take stock of the things that are not done, things that I haven’t started, and things I totally forgot to do. I sat for a few minutes and updated my to do list and allowed myself to breathe. It will never be perfect. Ever. In fact, I think we need to do away with the idea of perfect. Perfectionism is a myth. But if I give myself permission to start where I am, if I allow myself that… I feel like I’m already ahead.

So, to anyone out there who is feeling overwhelmed, to those of you out there who struggle with perfectionism, I offer this:

Start where you are.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How do you cope when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

About the Author Corinne

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    1. That’s me as well. But you can edit forever. Sometimes perfectionism is procrastination in disguise. But I’m the same with blogging and with my nonprofit work. I always feel like I need to make sure everything is exact before moving forward.

  1. Great advice. “Start where you are.” You really can’t start any other way. I guess another would be “Put one word in front of the other.”

    A writer friend of mine once told me to take my time with my writing. Don’t get swallowed up in the rush of things happening at internet speed and make preventable mistakes. I took this to heart and am making sure things happen at the correct speed for me because I don’t want to get lost in that should-be-doing haze. That kind of pressure is exhausting.

  2. Tanya – that is excellent advice. The rushing with writing is crazy! When I made the choice to pub my book last fall, I suddenly felt this amazing sense of urgency surrounding everything. That’s a demon, there. Good advice… go at your own pace. :)

  3. This is great advice. I have this vision of the kind of writer I want to be. Too often, I’m so focused on that idealized vision that I can’t figure out what kind of writer I actually am and how to deal with the problems I’m facing right now.

  4. Thanks James. You’re so not alone in that. I think the other side of “start where you are” is about being present in this moment and owning that you’re already what you want to be, and as long as you start, you’ll get better every day.

  5. Perfectionism can all to easily lead to paralysis and, because it is generally touted as somewhat of an ideal personality trait, “Well…I’m just such a perfectionist,” it is also easy to hide behind. We should all be stretching towards our best work, but if we’re not doing anything in the name of getting it just right, well, we’re just not doing anything. Great post!

    1. Totally agree!! It is entirely too easy to hide behind or to think that you need to be at some particular level in order to move forward. The mantra here should be “ONWARD!”

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