By making the process unnecessarily difficult.
The “working under pressure” strategy that worked in high school and undergrad don’t work with the book writing process. Perfectionism murders first drafts, which are actually designed to be full of feel good. This is the enjoyable part.
The beautiful thing about a first draft is that you can’t fuck it up.
If you stick to its purpose and keep to the process, then you’ll not only find that to be true, but you’ll also begin to enjoy it far more. The biggest challenge to that, for the perfectionist, is not worrying about getting it right the first time. Never mind the better word or the term that’s politically correct. Don’t worry about the exact year that it happened or what so and so’s name was.
The highlighting function worked wonders for my first draft.
It freed me up to get back to writing. It serves as a reminder that the first draft is not the final draft. That I’ll come back to it, and when I do, I’ll correct it (or fill in the blanks) at that time. The tricky thing about us perfectionists is that verbal reminders don’t work. Posted reminders work somewhat, but unless you stop and look up at it then it’s useless. That’s why I’m more for technique, and highlighting is one that you’ll find to work beautifully (be it on paper or on the computer).
Believe that your book will be great, but don’t let that obstruct the process.
We want this one to be our golden one. We want people to love it. We want to look back on it and beam about the shit every time. Unfortunately…sigh…you’re going to have to release that. Your book can actually be the best there is ever and still not be received well. There are other factors involved in that that you should tend to when the time comes. For now, let’s focus on getting something to actually work with.
Because the first draft ain’t working. And if it feels too much like working, you’re messing it up for yourself. Revising is working. Drafting is flowing. It’s brain dumping. It’s just getting it out of you. Getting something down on paper so that you can go back and make it dance. Whenever you’re out of line with that feeling, then either your thought process is off or your writing process is off.
Chanting is a great technique here and can be infused into your writing ritual. Before you sit down to write, go before the mirror and remind yourself:
Finishing the first draft is the first step in being great.
Take some of that pressure off of you. Every time you take a break, do the exact same thing. While you’re stretching, remind yourself. When you’re stuck, remind yourself again. Finishing the first draft is the first step in being great.
Not finishing is the biggest blow to the first draft.
I totally get it because I’ve been there, and what I love about coaching is that you end up working with those just like you. Every draft ain’t meant to be a book. Maybe it served better as a blog, a book chapter, or just a conversation piece. I’m talking about the one that you know you’re supposed to write. The one that you can’t stop thinking about. The one that attracts for confirmation from every-damn-where. That one.
And when you make that one unnecessarily difficult, then you wind up not finishing. After all, you’re not getting paid for this (not right now, at least). And when a good bit of pressure kicks in, you’ll find other shit to do. You’ll do shit that you don’t even like to do to avoid first draft tension. I give you permission to write super fast. To spell everything wrong. To sound a WHOLE LOT like you. To skip that part and move on.
Now give yourself permission. Identify those feelings that you get when you’re frustrated with your writing. What’s going on during those moments? Is it actually writer’s block, or are you trying to find a better way to say it? If, in any way, the frustration lies in trying to make that sucker super awesome, then move on. Here’s another good one:
Give yourself about ten “whatever” sentences per session.
That means that when you don’t know what to say, you’ll write whatever just to hold the place. I’ve actually written “have an argument right here” and “move back to New Orleans right here,” and then kept it moving. Keywords here are “kept it moving.”
Are you a perfectionist? If so, how have your habits made writing difficult for you? Later this week, we’ll be chatting up even more keep-it-moving techniques. Want it delivered to your inbox? Sign up here. Want to join the convo? Find us on Facebook.