On Being Realistic

I've subscribed to Flylady's emails off and on. But I've gotten them often enough to understand a principle called, "Paralyzed Perfectionism." For those who haven't heard of it, it's pretty self-explanatory. You're so worried about doing something RIGHT and PERFECTLY that you don't even know where to start, so you don't do anything at all.

That's me to a T.

It happens when I sit down to write a scene in my book. It happens when I look at my sink full of dirty dishes. It happens when the kids get home from school and want to play and I know they really have to read and do homework and practice the piano and do chores. It happens when I decide I want to start an exercise and diet plan. It all just feels so overwhelming that I just get a chocolate bar and go read a book in my bed.

But the thing I'm mostly thinking of right now is that it happens when I set a daily wordcount goal for myself.

Part of why I set unrealistic expectations is because I've performed at high levels of efficiency in all of the above areas in the past at some point. I've kept my house clean every day when it was on the market. I've followed a rigorous diet and exercise plan, felt great, and lost 20 pounds in a few months. I took on the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote 50,000 words in 1 month. Etc., etc., etc.

But a couple days ago as I was falling farther and farther behind on my words every day, I just thought, "Why don't I change it to writing 500 words a day instead of 1,000. Who cares if I went a whole month writing almost 2,000 words a day 6 days a week? What matters right now is that every day I fall behind, I feel more and more hopeless of being able to catch back up and stay on target to meet my goal.

So I changed my spreadsheet (yes, I'm obsessive about spreadsheets) to reflect a 500 words a day goal instead of a 1000 words a day one. And it feels awesome! 500 words a day feels do-able to me right now. Partly because I'm having a hard time writing every day, hence the falling behind. But if I write 1,000 words one day and then miss the next day, I'm still on track! I love the feeling of being on track. :o)

How do YOU set reasonable goals and keep yourself on track? I'd love any extra tips you guys have for me.


  1. I love this post. It's SO me. I don't have any tips but I'm grateful for the ones you just gave me!

  2. Jenn, you are amazing. One thing I do: realize that I'm who I am. I can't write everyday. I know, I know, jaws are dropping all over the place. I just can't. I don't have it in me, mostly because I don't plot, so it takes time for me to come up with, you know, what comes next in the book.

    So I realize that. And I stop beating myself up for it. I write mostly on the weekends, when I have time. Then I can use the hours driving, doing errands, paying bills, etc. during the week to think about what to write on the weekend. It works for me.

  3. JENN!! I love your new look! And, I've added you to my new feed ;)

    I have no idea what works for me. We just talked about this, right, lol?

    When I figure it out, I'll let you know!

    Good luck with your new plan!

  4. The higher the expectations for ourselves, the bigger our fall, right? If I would just lower my expectations for myself, I think I would find I am a pretty awesome person! ;) Here's to simplicity and realism!

  5. I'm right there with you with the paralyzed perfectionism. I think that's why I have a hard time sticking to exercise programs and diets - once I mess up, I tend to give up. Same with writing - I think that's why I'm having a hard time finishing my first draft - it's hard to just let go and write, without worrying about getting it just right. I always have to remind myself of the advice you gave me (I think you heard it from another writer, but his/her name is eluding me) and let my draft be the story throwing up on the page and to clean it up later (graphic analogy, but it works). Anyhow, what I'm trying to say is that I know how you feel -- and it's nice to not be the only one!


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