Writing (as a Perfectionist with OCD)

The difficulty of writing, when you are a perfectionist, is starting. And finishing. And the bit in between. The difficulty with writing with my OCD is the posting/sending/getting work out there. I would love to write books. But where on earth do you start? I find it difficult enough to work through getting a blog post finished and to the point of uploading every few months (sorry). My OCD makes me question everything I write, and everything I think about writing. My perfectionism makes me not want to start something unless I think it will be the best thing I can possibly write. It is a lot of pressure, and it is all self-inflicted. Probably I shouldn’t be confusing perfectionism with OCD. But then I find they are so closely linked in my psyche.

 

Maybe this is the same for all writers? Or do some just sit down and the words flow? The ideas come thick and fast? The mood just right? Or do they figure if you waited until you were in the right frame of mind to write you would never write anything? As a perfectionist, and someone with OCD, I never want to write unless I know exactly where it is going and how I am going to get there. It’s not very conducive to creativity or flow.

 

So, I think, ‘maybe I should read more’? Would this help? I like to plan things, and I like to read other people’s guides to give me inspiration to figure out my way of doing it. But this all takes time. And what if I get it wrong? I can’t be having that! And I always assume everyone is better than me, or has a secret formula they won’t share. Whenever I read writers’ advice on writing, it is always the same – just write! I find that so difficult. Perhaps it is practice that helps make perfect, but isn’t that so easy to say?

 

My OCD sometimes affects my ability to publish posts. It has affected my writing for a long time. When I used to work in an office, I often found it incredibly difficult to send emails. I would have to re-read what I had written several times to make sure it was suitable. My obsessive thoughts would make the suggestion I had hidden an inappropriate comment somewhere in the basic text, and I would then spend ages scouring the email to check I hadn’t made an insulting or offensive remark. Of course, I hadn’t, but OCD makes you doubt yourself. And it makes completing writing, for me, very difficult.

 

It’s difficult to start, and it’s difficult to finish. It’s difficult to isolate ideas from the rush of things in my head, and it’s difficult to publish my work once it’s done. Maybe I should just stop, then. But I so love to write! I love the thought of writing, I love the process, I love the time it gives me with myself. I should, therefore, just do it for myself, but there is an urge to write for the benefit of others too. It’s difficult to admit that you aren’t just writing for yourself, that you need the input from others’ experience of reading your words. It feels a bit selfish and egotistical. But it’s just another way of connecting with people, and connecting can be hard when you are forever in your own head.

 

I guess, with a lot of things in life, the best thing to do is simply to keep going. As Dory repeats in Finding Nemo, ‘just keep swimming’. Something is bound to work, right? If you are a writer (or you just write), do you find the process difficult? How do you motivate yourself and what inspires you? If you have anxiety, how do you manage it within the writing process (and not let it kill the creativity!)? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Photo courtesy of Ryan McGuire at https://gratisography.com

7 thoughts on “Writing (as a Perfectionist with OCD)

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  1. I am also a perfectionist with OCD, in short it can be challenging at times. But, its all the more worthwhile when you complete the task. Also I found there was a point when I had finished my book that I felt a great freedom in just saying “whatever – i cant check this again, it is what it is” that action in itself helped me in other areas of my OCD/perfectionism. If i can let go of one thing then I can let go of others.

    I wish you all the very best. Cheers

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  2. I am also a writer, perfectionist, and sufferer of obsessive compulsive disorder. I found this article very interesting because I actually have a bit of a reverse obsessive compulsive pattern to yours. Rather than question what I write and have a difficult time publishing I tend to have really fast artistic streams of consciousness play on repeat in my head, I suspect from the same mental place that produces intrusive thoughts. I actually have a harder time STOPPING myself from writing “too much” or going off topic because the thoughts just flow so rapidly. Along with that perfectionism comes an unwillingness to compromise on my writing and filter pieces out because of the OCD “all or nothing” mindset. It takes a good amount of fighting with the OCD to figure out what I want in my writing versus what the OCD wants in my writing. It’s extremely fascinating to me how this disorder is such a paradox, how for one person like you it can be inhibitory in writing while it’s almost too encouraging for a person like me in writing. That being said I’m glad I read this post. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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    1. Hi Valerie, thank you so much for reading my post and for your comment. It is great to hear from someone else with OCD who writes, and it is really interesting to hear the different way you experience the impact of OCD on your creative outlet. I think how you describe the stream of consciousness as coming from the same place as intrusive thoughts really helps me understand the way this could present problems for your writing. It is great you take on OCD and don’t let it stop you doing what you love. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, it has really helped 🙂

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  3. I really identify with this and this thoughts are what has stopped me blogging regularly I think. Strangely thought, writing is a huge part of my job (communications manager).

    In some ways, being a perfectionist helps as I proof read a LOT. But the constant checking of words, meaning, html formatting bugs- it can be very overwhelming. Sometimes it does hinder my productivity if I feel I’m not in the zone for a particular task. I also find it near impossible to read workthat I’ve produced after it’s been published/sent out, just in case there’s anything wrong with it!

    I’ve not been diagnosed with OCD personally but notice this more when I’m stressed which I have been recently. So maybe it is a mental health issue that I should look into!

    Keep writing, by the way. It’s great writing and it also sounds like you really enjoy it.

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  4. *these thoughts! There’s me talking about being a perfectionist, ha!

    Actually though, that typo has reminded me of an interesting point – I find writing on social media or via WhatsApp quite liberating as it seems less permanent. It takes the pressure off. Interesting!

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