by Sarah Hayhurst

You are an editor. You care about your projects and give 100 percent effort to each one. After all, people pay you to make things “perfect.” It’s your job.

But have you ever felt paralyzed because the manuscript in front of you, despite the author’s highest hopes, doesn’t have a chance at achieving the status of perfection? Or maybe you’re the writer. You keep refining your words, but your manuscript never seems to measure up to your aspirations or the work of another admired author?

The inability to achieve perfection often causes editors to procrastinate and writers to experience “writer’s block”—frozen by the fear of putting your imperfect ideas out there for everyone to see and critique.

While you rehash a manuscript over and over in your mind, you grow convinced only of the fact that every creative bone has officially left your body. Until creativity returns, your brain is nothing but mush as the deadline quickly approaches.

When the pressure to be perfect is overwhelming, editors and writers need internal, personal encouragement to do the next thing.

Let’s face it. For most editors and writers, your life consists of mainly you, your computer, and the manuscript. You work in a silo. You are alone most of the time with no audience cheering you on. If you are like me, your inner critic can become your worst enemy. Others are “naturals” at the craft, but you, on the other hand, have to agonize over each word as you rewrite and revise.

How can an editor or writer break the ice and generate the momentum necessary to accomplish the task at hand?

You may need a creative break or at least a cup of coffee in your favorite mug. Take a morning run … or an afternoon run if the day is slipping by. Change your environment by moving to the back porch or going to the library. You know what works best for you, but the key is to do the next thing. Movement generates momentum, so push through the paralysis.

Break down the tasks and make a list so you feel you’re actually accomplishing something. You must remember, despite the adage “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” that prioritizing is not the same as procrastinating.

And, of course, it’s always easiest to be yourself. Don’t try to sound like someone else, and don’t expect the first draft to be presentable.

Keep reading Sarah Hayhurst’s Balancing Act, Part 2. Subscribe by entering your email information (see right sidebar) to be sure you don’t miss any PEN Tips articles!

Editor. Writer. Coach. Sarah graduated as the valedictorian of her class in high school, earned an associate degree in secretarial science in 1991, and pursued a bachelor’s degree in communication arts in 2014, cum laude.

Sarah has enjoyed a variety of positions, such as editor/teacher for a publishing company, managing editor for a university, marketing director for a law firm, and computer/ESL teacher for a private school. These and other experiences make Sarah versatile today.