Number five in our Tuesday series on how to take some of the scary out of blogging (or of anything else)
If you want to catch up — though of course you don’t have to — start with these:
Part 1. What if people are mean to me?
Part 2. What if I throw a party and no one shows up?
Part 3. Why even bother when there are already other people doing it better?
Part 4. What do I saaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?
Today we’re talking about what to do when perfectionism strikes. The whole how can I write when nothing I say is good enough? problem.
This actually hadn’t been planned as part of the original series but last week a friend had a blogging emergency — Ahem, We interrupt this blogging series for a blogging emergency — so I decided we’d sneak it in.
Good thing too because it’s a pretty big deal. Perfectionism being, of course, an old friend here at The Fluent Self. Hello, I’m the one who took a year and a half just to get ready to start blogging.
And, as always, this isn’t really about blogging. It’s about working on your “stuff” and meeting yourself where you are.
So even if blogging holds zero interest for you — or if you’re a total rockstar who scoffs at my still-over-100,000 Alexa ranking — you’ll probably be able to find some useful stuff in here that you can apply to whatever else you’re working on.
Ack! Perfectionism! Stucknesses! Blogging emergency!
What it looks like …
My gentleman friend received the following email this week from a (mutual) friend:
I can’t do this! I’ve been trying to write all afternoon and am too much of a perfectionist. I can’t get more than a paragraph. Aaaargh! How does Havi do this every day?
And, since my gentleman friend is the sweetest, most compassionate person I’ve ever met, he came running to me and my duck to ask for help.
Since I’m not the sweetest, most compassionate person, I rolled my eyes and said, “There is no such thing as a blogging emergency.”
This is actually a reference to our friend’s husband who is semi-famous in a very small circle for having once said, “There is no such thing as a sex toy emergency.”
But it turned out that he was wrong, and if you extend the logic, so am I. Anyway, Selma and I decided to step up to the plate and pretend that we’re decent friends.
Back to the point.
does make blogging harder kills blogging.
And I’m saying that as someone who has agonized over her posts, complete with shaking fingers hovering over the publish button.
No fun. Let’s talk about this. First: some things to think about. And then three techniques.
Things to think about …
Blogging is for you, not for them.
Ignore all the annoying experts who want you to be “strategic” and focus on your “target market” and their “needs”.
You can think about that stuff later — if you want to — when you’re famous. Or when you’re in marketing mode. You don’t have to think about it now.
Right now this stuff is getting in the way.
Instead, let your blog exist for you. It’s a place for you to practice being yourself. Out loud. But as quietly as you want. In tiny, tiny doses. Without everything you say having to mean something.
Start thinking about it as therapy that you don’t have to pay for.
The answer to the “How does Havi do this?” question is that Havi thinks of writing posts or bits of posts as a healing practice.
It’s just one part of her morning ritual.
Like meditating or making a cup of tea, it’s something I do for myself … something where the whole point of doing it to make me feel better.
Sometimes what I’ve written turns out not to be something I’d ever want to publish. In that case, it works like a journal entry. And sometimes what I’ve written goes out to you. Either way, I took conscious, intentional time to be with myself, so yay.
And stop thinking about it as a performance.
No one is judging you but yourself. And if they are? You don’t want them there.
You can always delete any post you don’t like!
And anyway, stuff disappears in the stream. You write. You write more. It all flows into the ocean. Things won’t disappear, but they also just won’t be as close to the surface.
And three techniques to play with …
Because yeah, food for thought isn’t bad, but it’s more fun to have something to actually do.
Pretend you’re writing an email.
What you want to do is to write each post as if it were an email. You can even write it in your email program. It could be a letter to a dear friend. Or it’s to a client who’s just asked you a really powerful question.
Either way, you feel comfortable being yourself and writing pretty much the way you’d talk.
Why this technique is helpful: usually when perfectionism shows up it’s saying things like “this isn’t good enough because you’re not a real expert” or “there isn’t anything useful here”.
But when you’re writing to a friend you don’t need to be an expert or to have something useful to say. You’re already being useful by showing up and giving love and responding to their pain.
That is how blogging should work. It’s valuable because you’re there. The value recedes when you’re lecturing people or distancing yourself from them.
Talk it out.
Some of us just don’t really write all that easily. So what you might do is take a theme or a question and just start talking it out. Out loud. And record yourself.
Nothing fancy or complicated. You can use a freebie calling service like Calliflower or FreeConferenceCall.com. You’ll get a number to call, and then you call in and just start talking until you’ve said what you have to say.
Then you could use Voice to Text software (a one-time investment of about a hundred dollars and totally worth it) to turn it into a blog post. Instant post! All you need to do is to edit.
Or if you have a recording you really like, you could podcast the result and give people the audio to listen to instead of a written blog post.
(Though — being a perfectionist and all — you probably won’t! We’ll work on that later.)
The journaling method.
One of my friends has a secret semi-non-existent blog that no one knows about. Yet. Because she’s practicing. She writes each post in a word document or a text file and leaves them on her computer.
This is the “dipping your toes into the ocean” method, and while it’s not for everyone, it’s working great for her.
When she started, it was all hard. The writing. The editing. The deciding on a topic. The casually mentioning to me that she might eventually get around to maybe starting a blog.
But now she talks about it all the time. She shares her posts-to-be with me. She’s even kinda sorta having fun with it. Easing into it. Which is fine.
I also keep some of my posts to myself. They don’t all have to go out to the world!
One final point: Perfectionism is not the enemy.
Your perfectionism wants you to be this perfect, polished expert so that you can feel safe. It thinks it’s protecting you. But it’s actually ensuring that you either a. won’t have a blog or b. that your blog will be boring and stilted.
If this is freaking you out, no worries. We’ll be talking next week about the “But I’m not a #@%& expert!” issue. Maybe by then I’ll learn how to fake curse with little symbol things too.
In the meantime, try saying this to your perfectionism:
“Honey, I appreciate that you’re trying to protect me, but what I really need right now is to feel safe and supported. So I’m asking you to either give me some encouragement or to not say anything at all.”
Perfectionism is not the enemy. Perfectionism is another life pattern that you can spend some time deconstructing. It’s a reminder that you still have stuff to work on.
It’s a reminder of your need to feel safe and loved.
Which is human and beautiful and not a bad thing at all.
If you have enough resources already, ignore this last bit
If taking patterns apart and replacing them with better ones is something that speaks to you … this is something I go way into depth on in the Procrastination Dissolve-o-matic — and of course you’re already working with my crazy brain-training techniques, right?
The blogging therapy series continues next Tuesday with “But I’m not an expert!” Until then we’ll be talking about habits and patterns and how to change them. Stuff like that.