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How I got over perfectionitis

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Do you have perfectionitis too? I often talk about the quest for perfection in my blog posts, and how even though I know it's impossible to achieve, it still drives me crazy!

Check out this fantastic guest post from freelance writer, Jean Feingold, about how she cured herself of perfectionitis:

In Deidre Rienzo's blog post, she mentioned her difficulty with perfectionitis, the fear that anything written down that wasn't perfect wasn't worth writing down. I used to have that problem when I first started my professional writing practice. Every article I wrote was edited, scrutinized, rewritten, and tweaked multiple times, sometimes so much so that all the life in it drained away.
But that was in the days when I had little work and was overly eager to establish myself. The solution to my desire to have every word and phrase be perfect was spending time as a correspondent for United Press International wire service. This was rewrite work, taking news from local sources and putting it in my own words in their desired format. I was expected to write 1,500 to 2,000 words daily, seven days a week. Pretty soon I learned how to recognize writing that was good enough. Even when I could tell it wasn't perfect, there was no time to dwell on it. Not only that, what they were paying, if considered on a per word basis, was far too little to justify perfection.
As a result, after doing this work for a few years, I became a very fast writer, composing at a rate of something like 30 words per minute. I had learned how to get to the essence of the topic, tell the story, and move on. This skill makes it possible for me to say "yes" to every freelance assignment I am offered and to volunteer to take on more because I know that once I get the information, the articles will almost write themselves.
The only time when the temptation to do more than is needed creeps in is when business is slow. I find myself editing too much out of some misguided desire to impress the client. What I have to remember is this – if the clients could write it themselves, they would not have hired me!

Jean Feingold is a freelance writer whose Gainesville, FL-based company, Business Communicators, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Her work has appeared in trade publications in varied industries in the U.S. and Canada.

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