The “Perfect Zone” is Killing Your Writing

Everyone wants to discover how to consistently find that perfect writing zone. A cup of coffee at hand, a blank page ready to be filled, a keen focus, and most importantly, a steady flow of brilliant words and breakthroughs. Lovely, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the “perfect zone” is a myth. A dangerous one.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

Forget Perfectionism

First off, what is the “perfect zone?” It’s not simply discovering the best time and place for you to write, because that’s just maximizing your potential. The “perfect zone” is believing that you can find something that will produce perfect writing. So, the it’s essentially chasing after whatever you think will take away every single hardship in writing. It’s forgetting that good writing requires perseverance and toil.

The idea of the perfect zone holds such sway because it promises easy, steady excellence and bypasses the journey of struggle. We all want to be able to churn out quality writing every time we sit down, and the perfect zone appears to be a panacea for that. At the heart of the matter is a desire to effortlessly write incredible passages all the time. It’s perfectionism, plain and simple.

The problem is that this promise can’t deliver. I have yet to encounter a reliable formula of external circumstances to feel satisfied with my work every time I sit down. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain steps that can and should be taken to improve the atmosphere or your focus, but the lie that these things will eliminate the struggle entirely saps motivation. A sunny window, cup of tea, and inspired focus don’t guarantee a great draft. This reality often leaves writers feeling defeated, as though they’ll never the right circumstances to ensure they write well. It also leads to the mentality that one can only write well when the stars align and they find the perfect opportunity.

I went through a stretch where nothing I wrote seemed to gel, and searching for a solution left me frustrated and disappointed. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I wondered why I couldn’t just write an incredible book that would impact people for years. Because of that, I was starting to feel apathetic towards the process. Clearly, pride and perfectionism were killing my writing.

However, I did find (and am still learning to implement) a cure.

Joy Maximizes Writing Sessions

For me, the shift came when I just focused on loving writing— the actual act of choosing words to convey my ideas, not the glossy, finished product. It seems so obvious, but it made a world of difference. While my ambition to improve my skill was admirable, it had started to impede on what I wanted to get better for. The big picture, though good, becomes meaningless if the small picture is neglected. If you never write because it won’t be perfect, you’ll end up with nothing written.

So, that’s the secret. Joy. The way to counteract crippling perfectionism is to direct your attention back to the joy of writing. It’s amazing how the mistakes seem smaller and the process less draining when you’re passionate about actually plopping words onto paper. Maximizing the quality and quantity of each writing session is a natural result of being enthusiastic and assiduous. Not to mention, that mentality is a lot more pleasant than the endless race of perfection.

The great irony is that the stress to produce an exquisite work quickly rarely stems from making the story the priority. Often, perfectionism creeps in when we write to impress others or even ourselves. The ever-demanding self desires to be the one accredited with a brilliant novel, and the initial enthusiasm is left behind for perfection. This shift in priorities doesn’t make for a better piece. It’ll only serve to stifle it and keep it from breathing.

Drafts will inevitably be sloppy, characters cliche, and the pacing choppy– guess what? That’s just a part of writing. The first pass doesn’t need to be perfect, or even the second or third. This is not an excuse to stagnate or a pass for poor writing, rather it’s an invitation to enjoy the growth process. I still struggle to do this– to reclaim joy, focus on telling a solid story, make a wonderful work of art, and embrace that it might not be perfect. When I remember to take the time to love writing, I find many of my blocks are swiftly overcome.

What do you love about sitting down to write? About putting words on paper?

What do you enjoy writing about? What ideas, characters, or settings get you excited?

Who do you write for? Do you get caught up trying to write to impress others or yourself? Or do you write for the story and to glorify God?

Take a moment to ponder those questions. Next time you start dreaming about finding the perfect zone, refocus on the joy of writing. You’ll find that great creations naturally follow.

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