Don’t Let Perfection Stop Your Progress Toward Being a Great Writer

This week we’re talking about The Seinfeld Method and how it can help you achieve your goals while in the middle of your busy, hectic life.

So far, we’ve looked at focusing on not breaking the chain to create a habit and visual motivator to consistently take action. And, we discussed how taking action, rather than doing an activity, is a faster way to accomplish your goal.

Now that you know what actions you’re going to be taking – and hopefully it includes writing – you’ll actually have to … act!

And, when it comes to writing, sometimes that simple act can be very difficult.

I can remember finishing the first act on a script I was working on, and I felt it was solid. Then I had to start the daunting second act – which is the largest act in a screenplay – and I just stared at the blank page with my fingers resting on the keyboard … for what felt like an eternity.

Everything that popped into my head just wasn’t as good as the first act. I’d start to write … then read it … hated it … then immediately deleted it. I was going nowhere fast. It was a real struggle for me.

Later, I was in a screenwriting workshop with script consultant, Michael Hauge, and I was discussing my dilemma with him … when he said something to me that was totally liberating …

“Don’t get it right, get it written.”

In my quest to write the second act as “perfectly” as I believed I wrote the first act, I was unknowingly stifled by the paralysis of perfection.

This can be the cause for writer’s block, procrastination and lack of self-confidence.

But, when you just allow yourself to “not get it right” and just “get something written” … you free the creative muse … and the writing process starts to flow.

Remember … we’re not looking for perfection in the first draft – we’re looking for progress. And, with progress comes improvement … which leads to self-confidence … that breeds consistent quality work.

In the story I told you on Monday … Jerry Seinfeld told the young comedian to write a joke every day.

Jerry didn’t say to write a great joke, or even a funny joke … he just said to write a joke.

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes … and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

And, that’s your goal …

To be a better copywriter, you just have to write every day … and it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be written.

By the way, that first act I thought was “perfect” had to be re-written numerous times. Everything about writing is re-writing. So, just let the fingers fly over the keyboard and the pen sail across the paper …

We’re striving for progress – not perfection!

Here’s a quick exercise to help you bypass that “perfection” mental editor …

Set a timer for five minutes. (Sometimes, to “not break the chain,” you may have only five minutes to write … so get used to this fast, free-flow writing.)

Try writing a “5WH” story. It’s basically a barebones news article: Who? Where? When? What? Why? How?

Don’t think, just write! You’ll clean it up later.

This will get you in the habit of just writing, letting go, then coming back to read what you wrote and, if you feel like it, improve it. But only take five minutes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this exercise. Tell me about it in the comments.

For tomorrow … I’m going to reveal the sure-fire way to achieve any goal … and that’s to forget the goal!

What? Is this some kind of joke? Well, after all … this is The Seinfeld Method …

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Published: February 25, 2015

10 Responses to “Don’t Let Perfection Stop Your Progress Toward Being a Great Writer”

  1. Paper and pencil were once my worst enemy. I would write a line or two, didn't like it and start again. Soon I was out of paper or erasers. This kept me from writing for years then with my first computer I learned to just write. When I write without regard for quality, only being concerned with quantity, I can go back and pick out the cherries and arrange them into a masterpiece. Just my two cents...


  2. Your article mirrors my difficulties! I am stuck--royally! I am doing an exercise in the Writing Course. I must have made 100 interations through this past month to my copy--now I am losing interest as I read and re-read, going nowhere fast! I am NOT continuing, procrastinating just to avoid my copy--looking for excuses. Wondering if I will ever be a writer? Used to have a passion for writing, prob. still do, getting bogged down. is this normal for a writer? I can just see me with deadlines!


  3. Just wanted to drop by to say that I am ENJOYING your series. You clearly know how to hook your reader ;)

    Thanks Bob #HUGS


    Guest (Kit)

  4. I'm writing each day for this purpose: finishing my 1st Assignment in the Accelerated Copywriting Program and then submitting it for review. Then moving on to the next Assignment. This will be progress every day. The idea is to get used to doing this and then it becomes second nature. The more you write the more it happens.

    Joan M

  5. Hey Bob, that "little" 5-minute exercise is one I'm going to try. As both a scriptwriter and aspiring copywriter, I've been intrigued by your thoughts and guidance. As a serial perfectionist, this one really resonates!! Many thanks, Mark.

    Mark Conlon

  6. This is a very good exercise. It is worth doing every day. As a matter of fact, perfection does not come over night. It is also not an event, but a process. At the same time, a process entails progress, and progress entails improvement. As a copy writer, I must exert every effort to improve in my career every day. This require constant or habitual practice. This is the key to perfection. Thanks.


  7. Great advice! Really needed to hear this since I was so concerned with getting it right the first time, I was stalling myself. Your articles this week have been right on for me! Thanks for sharing!

    Guest (Jane A)

  8. Thank you so much for that. I am a little ashamed to say that sometimes I wouldn't write because I didn't have the time to devote to it. Now I will go forward, writing everyday! I love these articles. Very helpful.

    Brandi Poole

  9. Hi Bob,you just said the magic words "don't get it right but get it written" this alone could make a writer stalling for eternity staring at a blank page,the quest to be perfect at the first draft,with the most perfect idea,now you just break the spell,just like some one said its a process in progress its get better with the practice to be better...
    this is great! thumbs up for you


  10. The comments I have read mimic exactly how I feel about writing. I am so encouraged to know that perfection is not the first step; getting my thoughts on paper is more important at first.


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