Episode 22: You’re Not a Perfectionist—You’re Afraid

Today we’re talking about the root of so much of the resistance we face as writers: perfectionism. Where does it come from, how does it affect our writing, and how can we overcome it?

We start off by redefining perfectionism using some of the writing of Stephen Pressfield, author of The War of Art, and discover how fear is at the root of it. Then we explore how this can actually be a positive thing if we learn to use fear as a kind of signpost for where we should be headed in our writing lives.


Brad draws on the work of Stephen Pressfield and his book The War of Art. You can pick up a copy of this great book here.


We’ve actually got two WISE WORDS for you today. Both of them having to do with perfectionism. Our first comes from Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston who studies perfectionism and wrote a book called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”

Writer Shannon L. Alder says that…

“There is no perfection, only beautiful versions of brokenness.”

I love this quote because it reminds us of what we are actually trying to create when we write. We are not trying to create perfection. Perfection is boring, predictable, and sterile. We are creating “beautiful versions of brokenness.” We are telling stories of characters who are broken as they try to put themselves back together again. Why not give our selves the same benefit and let some of our own “beautiful brokenness” show through in  our writing?


Today’s topic doesn’t lend itself quite as well to a weekly challenge as past topics have. There’s no specific technique to try, no writing prompt to help inspire your writing. But I think there’s still a kind of natural challenge that grows out of it. This week, I encourage you to take at least one step toward fear. What that looks like is entirely up to you. Have you been thinking about a story idea that you fear will have no market or might even offend people? Start to write it. Have you been fearful to reach out to a mentor to ask for help? Take that step. Have you been fearful to join a writing group and share some of what you’re working on? Research a writing group and get involved. Have you been reluctant to show your work-in-progress to a beta reader? Send off a copy today and see what comes of it. Have you been revising and revising and revising the same story over and over again? Perhaps it’s time to send it out into the world and see what happens. So our weekly challenge for this week is basically this: do something with your writing that scares you. I’d love to hear about what you do with the challenge this week. Shoot me an email at [email protected], Tweet me @bradreedwrites, or, better yet, leave us a voice mail at 541-952-2406 and you just might hear your voice on a future podcast. If you missed that number, just click the Talk To Us link on the website at bradreedwrites.com.

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