Start cultivating a belief that what you have to say is important.
Before I became a professional writing coach, I spent some time working as a middle school English teacher. During this time in my career, I realized I definitely had a knack for helping people understand confusing information. I also found out I was a perfectionist.
I think I had always known this on some level, but it had never manifested itself as a problem before. In retrospect, I am positive this is because teaching (much like writing, or painting, or playing music, or any number of creative activities) is something that can never be perfect.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, this concept can be really difficult to accept. I know from experience that it is so tempting to just keep adding things to a painting, thinking every brush stroke will be the one that finally “fixes” it.
Teachers want more than anything to fit more hours into a day so they can do more work for their students.
Musicians will play a piece many times over, missing a different note each time...only to worry again about their phrasing and dynamics once all the notes are there.
But none of these "perfect" scenarios are ever going to happen: there will always be something else to add to your picture, more things you want to do for your students than time will allow, and someone out there who can play the piece just a bit more beautifully.
Where writing is concerned, these same concepts apply: you could edit your pieces to infinity and beyond, going back over and over to find changes you want to make in pursuit of perfection.
The only way to be confidently done with any of these things is to tell yourself: I did my best, and I’m proud of the result. It might not be perfect, but it will be yours, and I think that has the potential to be a lot more powerful.
During one particularly hard season of teaching, a good friend saw that I was struggling with the need to try to be perfect for my students. He gave me an incredibly valuable piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten: “Get out of your head, and into your gift!"
While I think this advice is applicable to all kinds of situations, I think it’s especially important for writers to remember. (Though musicians and teachers might appreciate it too!)
A major part of “getting into your gift” is the fundamental belief that what you have to say is important, and that someone will find value in your story.
Sometimes, that person may even be you: there can be great personal value in the telling of your own story! As an editor, I often find these are the most interesting and powerful pieces, because they’re filled with the passion of the person who needed to write them.
Your message and your story is your gift to the universe. If you don’t think you’re good enough at writing to express it, that’s no excuse—that’s why professionals like me are here to help. Take the plunge! Nothing as important as what you have to say should remain unsaid.
What untold story do you have waiting in the wings? Do you have a piece you’re afraid to put out there because you don’t think it’s perfect yet? What's stopping you? Let me know in the comments!