Perfectionism and Procrastination

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the toll procrastination takes upon our writing. I'm starting a new book right now, and I've fought to get really going on it because every time I sit down to write, I feel like my story isn't yet good enough. Can you relate to that?

While I think pre-writing planning is extremely helpful. And I know with my current novel, it's made all the difference in helping me craft well-rounded characters and giving me an idea of their motivations. I've also already charted out some of my most important scenes and have a good idea where everything is heading.

But at some point, all that is not enough. At some point, you have to sit in the chair with your computer and just write.

And the first draft will probably be bad. That's okay. It happens to all of us. The important thing is pushing past those feelings of, "Oh my goodness. I have to delete this whole thing. Give me some chocolate," toward feelings of "Well, this is at least tolerable," toward a moment (perhaps far in the future) where you think, "Hey, this isn't half bad."

Michael Hyatt posted as his Facebook status tonight: "Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination."

Isn't that so true? When I read that, I thought to myself, "What a perfect way to phrase what I wanted to write my blog post about."

I have a problem. I like things well-done. Very well-done. So well-done that sometimes it keeps me from jumping toward the thing at all. But think of it this way. A poorly-written first draft can be edited. An unwritten story is of no benefit at all.

Sometimes we just have to step out and put one foot in front of the other until we learn to walk, to step into our story and into uncharted ground. Eventually we will find the beautiful fountain that is the story God has put within us. But we won't find that beautiful thing if we don't keep walking. It's the same thing with the Christian walk, really. Faith requires a certain element of stepping out into the unknown. Many times, we're okay with that. But it gets a lot more challenging when we're not sure of the steadiness of our own ability.

But what has God said of that? Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." Take a second to let that soak in to your heart. When God calls us, He equips us. Sometimes He only gives us the tools we need for that next step of the journey, when we'd really like to have them all at once. But He knows how much we can handle. And the important thing is, the work He is doing in us is a good thing. It is a process. We do not step out in faith and suddenly arrive at spiritual perfection, and in the same way, we do not start writing and suddenly materialize a perfect story. But somehow, after many afternoons of sitting at the kitchen table alone and writing, or many late evenings filled with only the light of our laptops, we find a story. One that really sparkles and goes on to touch the lives of many.

So here's the thing. Keep writing.


How do you combat those, "My story stinks" blues that inevitably come at the beginning or perhaps the middle of your story?

Photo from


  1. I like what you said about us being able to edit a bad story, but not being able to do anything to something that's not written at all.

    And I'm a total perfectionist too, so you're not alone!!

  2. I had a feeling you were, Lindsay! Seems we are kindred spirits! :)

  3. Ashley, Your rough drafts are pretty darn good! I am glad that we feel comfortable enough to share our rough drafts with each other! You are right, it's best to sit down and flesh it out, and know it's not going to be seen in that condition by a publisher yet...just get the story out and then make it shine! I am trying to be better about also means taking good notes when you have ideas on how to change whatever you've written...I went back and wrote in some pretty significant back story because I was afraid I'd forget the research, but it probably would have been better to just make a note and keep pressing on, moving the story forward. It's such a journey, and we should remember that it's okay to get out there and walk a little before we run!
    Love ya!

  4. Angie, I feel the same way about you! I can't tell you what a help it is to know someone is going to be reading my story in its very rough stages and cheering me on. Sending cyber hugs your way!

    And I like what you said about walking before we run. So true with everything in life, really.

  5. "A poorly-written first draft can be edited. An unwritten story is of no benefit at all."

    So, so true.

    From another perfectionist...