When High Performance Standards Hinders Forward Progress

One of the hallmark characteristics of gifted children and adults is an incredibly high-performance standard. While this is a fabulous thing, and the very thing that can propel many gifted individuals to excel, it can also be the thing that causes complete and utter stagnation.

For me, it is often the latter. Especially if I can’t reconcile WHY I’m struggling or not performing at the level I expect.

I’m a hard worker. I take pride in my ability to assimilate information, learn new things and improve in the various fields I approach. With my creative self, however, I struggle. I work hard at the craft of writing. And I get great feedback from writers, editors, and the industry. That doesn’t mean my books are performing where I’d like them to be. Or that I am able to produce at a similar rate as that of many of my high-performing author friends.

And therein lies the rub.

I struggle to accept that hard work and improved craft isn’t enough to bring success in creative endeavors. There is a huge, intangible part. There is luck. And I can’t “work” my way into that piece.

For the last several months, the dissonance created by this intangible element of the writing business has resulted in a complete standstill for me. I haven’t been able to produce my fiction work. Every time I attempt it, I stare blankly at my computer, eventually writing and deleting too many words to count until I finally do something else (usually that means finding a nonfiction project to jump into). For a while I decided that maybe fiction wasn’t in the cards for me anymore.

And then I stopped. I changed my focus and decided it was time to quiet the noise and recognize the truth of what was going on…

My high-performance standards had morphed into the paralyzing procrastination that many gifted individuals wrestle face. It was time to try something different. Focus on the action I could take and “let go” of the things that were out of my control.

So, I chose a new approach – a few different projects to work on and a different way to push past my demons.

This morning, for the first time in a long time, I woke refreshed and ready to tackle my fiction-writing world. I drew up a plan and my mind raced. I feel excited.

I feel ready.

Time to act. Time to write. Time to move forward.

Have you ever gone through something similar? What did you do to move forward?

One thought on “When High Performance Standards Hinders Forward Progress

  1. This has been me for the last few years. It seems the only time I write fiction (not counting my increasingly rare contributions to my online writing group) is during NaNoWriMo (nanowrimo.org), and I haven’t “won,” since 2009.

    I was just thinking about this the other day, how maybe I should just focus on essays and other non-fiction. I’m not quite ready to give up yet. Maybe this year’s NaNoWriMo will light a fire under me again.

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