Nearly every month I’m late turning in this article for our Marketing Letter and this Publishing Success Blog, to the great frustration of my staff. Why am I late? The old saw comes to mind: “Perfectionism, Procrastination, Paralysis.” My article needs to be perfect because it will be sent to the most important audience I have: you. Because I want it to be perfect, I procrastinate, sometimes to the point of paralysis. And so the article gets turned in late. Many of you have had writer’s block, and will attribute it to the same root cause: perfectionism.
Not so fast! A few months ago I heard a radio program whose topic was whether perfectionists do, in fact, procrastinate more than other people. Two researchers from major universities who studied this subject were interviewed. (My apologies for the missing citation, but I don’t remember the names of the researchers, and couldn’t find information about the radio program on the Internet.) They found that perfectionists actually procrastinated less than other people. They postulated that anxiety and fear, not perfectionism, were the real causes of procrastination—an analysis that seemed intuitively right to me. Maybe the maxim should be changed to: “Phobia, Procrastination, Paralysis.” Thought of in this way, writer’s block is a result of the fear of, and anxiety caused by, the writing task or deadline itself, not of how good your writing will be. Maybe that’s why techniques like having strict deadlines, daily page or word count requirements, scheduled writing times, and private writing-only environments work so well at overcoming writer’s block. These techniques force you to confront and overcome your fear and anxiety.
Why don’t perfectionists procrastinate as much as everyone else? Because their perfectionism necessitates that they confront and overcome any fear and anxiety standing in the way of the (granted, not completely attainable) perfect result they desire. Perfectionism is what makes great writers and books!
It’s also what makes great book marketing. So, don’t let marketer’s block slow you down. Use the courage and techniques you used to conquer writer’s block to conquer marketer’s block, and your perfectionism to make your marketing the best it can be.
PS: Submitting this article five days before the deadline felt really good!