Does the fear of perfection keep you from writing? I mean, why even try if you can’t be the next William Faulkner, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, or Isabelle Allende? Why should you even think you have a story to tell in comparison to their stories, and really, what is your little talent compared to theirs?

STOP!!!!! Stop the comparisons. Anxiety is a natural part of the writing process, but this idea of having to be perfect is a killer from the start. As writers, we can’t compare ourselves to “the greats.” All we can do is to become the best writers we can be – that’s where the real magic is.

Anne Quinlan notes, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” While you may not have experienced the travels of Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, even if you had, your story would be nothing like hers – thank goodness. We don’t want to read the same story over and over again. I say that a little tongue in cheek, because that is exactly what we do as readers – we read the same story again and again, just in different form. It is probably true that all the stories have been written; there aren’t new ones. There’s the love story, the war story, the dysfunctional family story, the dealing with the death of a loved one story, etc., etc., ad nauseum. But we will pick up a book with any of those overdone stories, if – and this is a big if – if it’s told in a new way. And the only new way can be when someone brings a decidedly different take on the topic.

This different take is where you come in. You with your offbeat sense of humor, your strange way of noticing unique details, your unbelievable memory of what it was like being the only minority student at your high school, your incredible empathy for your not-so-nice leading lady. This is why you need to throw off the shroud of perfectionism – it’s suffocating your real talents.

Have you ever examined your writing strengths? I mean really sat down, pulled out your journal, and noted what it is you do well? Can you keep tension built up page after page to keep your readers mesmerized? Do you have a knack for interjecting the right amount of humor into a deadly serious topic to keep your readers interested? Do you draw characters that readers just naturally attach themselves to? Do you use words in a way that makes them seem to dance across the page? A lot of us are aware we have some talents – maybe others have commented on yours – but what many of us haven’t done is to really notice our talents and find ways to use them to make our writing unique, to tell that well-worn story a new way.

Today, make your goal to find out who you really are as a writer and play to your strengths.

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