Perfectionism and procrastination are two of the most common blocks I see in intuitive writers, and of course this isn’t surprising as they’re really two sides of the same coin. The basic difference is that perfectionism happens during the creative project, while procrastination happens before the creative project. No matter when they happen in the process though, they are equally damaging and can set a writer back years, even decades, in their creative development.
There’s a ton of information out there on dealing with both perfectionism and procrastination, ranging from loving self-affirmations to bootcamp instructions to just do it already. But I’ve never seen anything that addresses why this is such a problem for intuitive people, and intuitive writers, specifically. Everything I’ve read on the topic talks about how both perfectionism and procrastination stem from a fear of failure, or a fear of success. And while I do agree with this in general, I think the issue runs much deeper for intuitive people.
When a writer suffers from a fear of failure, they are basically terrified that they’ll be rejected. They’re scared that someone will read their work, criticize it, and judge them as foolish or incompetent. On a deep, almost primal level, they’re afraid that being judged as foolish or incompetent will mean they are unworthy of love. This is, at the root, fear of abandonment.
When a writer suffers from the fear of success, they’re worried about the expectations of others. They’re deeply uncomfortable with the idea that their work might create some sort of high standard that they’ll then be forced to live up to in the future. They’re afraid that they won’t be able to meet those expectations and they’ll only end up disappointing people, or they’ll be forced into a role they don’t want to play. This, at the root, is fear of entrapment.
The fear of abandonment and the fear of entrapment are two very, very old human fears, and everyone has them. Most of us have one more than the other, and some of us are split down the middle. But we all have these two fears, and they show up everywhere. They most strongly show up in the areas of life that we are most passionately invested in and that mean the most to us—usually our relationships and our work.
For intuitive writers, our creative work is extremely important to us. It’s what gives meaning to our lives and how we define our purpose on the planet. Even if we haven’t started our work yet—we might be still procrastinating on that memoir or novel—we know that it’s something we just have to do in order to live a fulfilled life. We care about writing almost more than anything else at times. It’s our reason for being.
Added to that is the fact that we are intuitive people, and so we’re intense. We feel deeply, we think deeply, we act and react deeply. Our emotional pendulum swings wide—from joyous euphoria to despair and darkness—and it swings frequently. We are artists in every sense of the word. Beauty and music move our souls. Emotions for us are hardly different than the great storms that rage across the surface of the earth. We are complex and curious and driven, and always, highly highly sensitive.
When the fear of abandonment or entrapment hits an intuitive writer in the gut, it truly does hit way harder than it does for most other people. We can’t just shake off criticism and we can’t just suppress our emotions and forge on. We know this about ourselves because we’ve been burned before by cutting remarks or thoughtless comments, and in those cases, it took us months—sometimes years—to recover.
So, the common advice doesn’t work for us. We can’t just push ourselves harder or get over it or grow a thicker skin. For intuitive writers, we have to fundamentally shift our mindset of how we see perfectionism and procrastination and how we approach it. There is no other way through it.
What makes all the difference for the intuitive writer is realizing that procrastination and perfectionism are both about a fear of meeting the self. We are terrified that if we start our book, finish our book, put our book out into the world, we will be completely vulnerable. We will discover things about ourselves during the process that are uncomfortable or difficult to handle. Our relationships with other people may change once they know we’re a writer or they read our work. But all of this isn’t just stuff to get over. It’s not about “conquering” it. Every uncomfortable, difficult thing that comes our way as we persevere and take one little step after another is a tool, and a gift. Every single thing, no matter how unpleasant, is an energetic boost that helps us grow and evolve.
When we view it that way, it’s easy to see that procrastination and perfectionism aren’t bad habits to be resisted. They are assignments we’ve been given by the Universe that we’re working with, and they show us exactly what we need to see about ourselves. And when we stop trying to escape them and instead turn to face them, we begin the process of meeting ourselves. We begin the work of being vulnerable in the world and trusting the support of the Universe to help us every step along the way.
That is the real work, and that’s why we’re here. When we look at perfectionism and procrastination with that perspective, our entire creative life has the potential to shift. We don’t have to just do it or do it right. Instead, we can do whatever we can, in this moment, and give thanks for the opportunity to grow, always knowing that true growth is never perfect.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer and The INFJ Revolution. She is also currently offering a free copy of her book on creative marketing for INFJ and INFP writers to anyone who signs up for her newsletter. SIGN UP HERE to get your free copy of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers.