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Strategies for Authors and Other Entrepreneurs

Aug 15, 2019

The definition of perfectionism, how it shows up in a writer's life, and what to do about it.


Show Notes:


Hello Indie Authors! I'm Valerie Ihsan, and

This is Season Two, Episode 20 of the podcast and it's 8/14/2019 as I record this.


But first the personal update segment:

  • Course work for Sweet Spot Strategy; contact me via email to meet with me (virtually or locally) for a four question interview. Tell me what your challenges are and how you think a coach or mentor could help you.


  • I'M READING: In fiction, Just finished Sparks by Maren Anderson and loved it. Now reading First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen, also loving it; Non-fiction: Almost done with Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit


  • I'd like to remind everybody that this podcast is sponsored by my supporters at Patreon. And being a patron of the arts is a totally cool thing to do. Joining my Patreon community also gets you sneak peeks into my creative world. For $1/month, or more, less than a pack of gum, you too can become a patron of the arts, and me! Find me at: 



Main topic: Perfectionism





I want to talk about perfectionism. What it is, how it shows up, and what to do about it.



It has to be perfect before I can release it out into the world.


  • People will think I'm dumb if it's bad.
  • People will think I'm a loser if it's bad.
  • I'll be embarrassed/horrified/ashamed/mortified.
  • People won't take me seriously is if not professional.
  • I'll let myself down if it's not the best I can do.
  • [Xxx] won't be proud of me if it's not any good.



  • (Stuck in cement.) Rewriting it for ten years and never publishing it or moving on to another project.
  • (Never start.) Find excuses why you can't work on your book. (Kids, partner, no support, no resources, mental illness, chronic health problems, job, too much to do...)
    • I didn't want to be bad at something. 
    • Writing was what I was good at. I didn't want to find out differently. Logically, I knew that books needed to be edited and reworked after writing them, but somehow I didn't *actually* believe that. Somewhere deep inside I thought that if I was good enough (insert negative belief structure to read: good enough person), it would be practically perfect and people would exclaim, "What?! That's your rough draft?! No way!!"
    • Not only did I not want to be bad at something, or more accurately, *look* bad, I didn't want to know that I was sub-par. Not good enough. As a human.
    • WHAT TO DO
    • Know that your first book will not be your best work ever. It might be the best you can do *right now*, but you will grow as a writer. Your skills will improve. Here's how I battled perfectionism one time: I was just about to publish my first novel. It was out at the ARC readers (which is past the point where you want changes to your manuscript--unless it's dire) and one reader (another author) got back to me about what she perceived as a lack of motivation for some of the characters. As if, I--the author--just wanted the characters to do something and so they did it. I was so done with working on this book. It had taken me a couple of years to finish and I was proud of it. When she gave me the feedback, I said, "Thank you. I can maybe see how you'd think that, but here's the thing. It's my first book. I know it's not going to be the best thing I ever write. It's good enough for a first book. I'll make more. But it's time to let this one go. I'm not going to get to be any better of a writer by re-working the one over and over for another six months to a year. But I will improve by writing another whole one."
    • And on another note: RESOURCE: 

The Pursuit of Perfection: And How It Harms Writers


by Kristine Kathryn Rusch 


  • I've heard people say that if you aren't doing it, you don't want it bad enough. I'd always get so mad hearing that. I did, too, want it! I just had all this other stuff in the way--what I thought were legit reasons. But, really, what they were was not excuses, it was perfectionism. Perfectionism is self-doubt. AND, I've discovered, a crazy mutant version of the inner-editor. So one thing that helped with that was Nanowrimo. I learned two things the first year I did it (and finished): 1) I worked faster than the inner-editor could keep up. When I'd hear him running up behind me, I stuff earplugs in and say, "It's not about quality, it's about quantity. I just need the words right now." And, 2) I *did* have time to write. With a family, raising two elementary school-aged children, and homeschooling my 2nd grader. None of my excuses worked. I wrote a whole novel in one month. (Maybe you'll learn something different from Nanowrimo.)
  • As far as the self-doubt goes, I just try to remember that everyone (even Lee Child and Steven King and Sandra Brown and Clive Cussler and Rachael Herron and Joanna Penn--read: all authors) has self-doubt. It's part of the writing process. It's part of being an author. When I remember that, I can default into self-care. I have several in my toolbox:
    • Affirmations
    • Meditation
    • Journaling
    • Artist Dates
    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Connecting with other authors
    • Surrounding myself with people who think I'm awesome
    • Read books and listen to podcasts to get inspired, change my mindset, and learn new things. (If I doubt my ability to do something, I'll study it until I'm confident I can do it.)
    • Do something that inspires me


Last thoughts about perfectionism--the kind that keeps you from writing or putting your work out into the world:

  • Go to Goodreads or Amazon and read the reviews of famous authors. Lots of people hated The Great Gatsby; Eat, Pray, Love; The Lovely Bones; and The Davinci Code. If your reviews are coming in and some of them are 1 stars, you're a real writer, and in the company of some of the greats. 
  • The biggest epiphany I ever had as a writer was: My husband is not my target audience. I was never going to write a book that he loved, and that was okay, because he didn't read the kind of books I wrote. I was a much happier writer after that.


How does perfectionism show up in your writing life? How can you deal with it and push through to success?