How does one improve upon perfection?
Ah, that’s a loaded question. Or perhaps the opinion of a narcissist or quite possibly a failed pickup line from a misogynistic predator in a smokey bar room.
As I was getting ready for the JOB this morning, I caught myself again, thinking about selections from my body of work this past year.
I readily admit, much of what I’ve written can certainly be improved upon. I have never written the perfect piece.
They all could have been improved in some fashion, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have published them when I did. If I had held back and micro-examined each piece searching for and finding flaws in hopes of making them perfect, they would all be sitting in my drafts section.
All four hundred and fifty-seven of them. Okay, I’ll stop bragging about it. Please don’t hammer me about being some kind of a crappy content mill.
I’ve read many articles here from so many of my writing friends who have long extolled the virtue of not being perfect, either personally or professionally. They’ve written some really great articles about the paralysis of perfection.
And I agree to a point.
I’ve always thought perfection to be subjective. You know, the eye of the beholder and all that jazz. Think about this for a bit. Nature is almost always not perfect. It’s beautifully flawed and imprecise. If that’s the case, why should we and our writing be any different?
Now don’t go running off telling everybody I said it’s okay to write crap all the time. Stay in the lane, folks.
Look, the fact we’re Human guarantees we’re going to make mistakes; we’re going to take a wrong turn professionally; screw up a relationship or make a wrong financial decision.
We’re just going to f*ck up. It’s what we do.
And we as writers are going to do the same. We’re going to throw some really sh*tty stuff on the table, and we’re going to realize (some of us sooner than others) that what we thought was one of our best works was actually a load of crap.
And as we hold our noses and carry out the trash, we’re going to tell ourselves not to ever write something like that again. Or if we do, then make it a h*ll of a lot better than we did the last time.
We’ll tell ourselves what we thought was one of our best works at the time — needed to be better. They always need to be better.
What’s really weird in a depressing/not so depressing kind of way, is that as writers we’re going to have this realization a lot.
I’m willing to bet none of us feel we’ve reached the pinnacle of our writing career.
I honestly don’t believe any of us think they’re standing at the top of the heap gazing down at all the lesser Gods.
What’s the old saying?
Oh yeah, it comes with the territory.
A lot of the veterans here already understand the rigors of constant improvement. They know full well if you’re not improving daily, you’re becoming stagnant and possibly heading in the wrong direction.
They also know they’re never going to be able to make the decision toward constant improvement for you. Only you can do that. Only you can adopt the mindset that your best almost always needs to be better.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. There are quite likely going to be many days when good enough is okay. None of us can keep up this grand prix pace toward writing Nirvana forever.
There are many times (even this morning for me) when a writer may know what they’re about to publish isn’t their best work, but they also understand it’s good enough for now.
And as we tap that publish button, we tell themselves we need to improve on the next one, and the next one and so on. And though we know, it’s not our best work we try to be proud of this latest accomplishment, or at least we try to be proud of our ugly baby.
Yet we sometimes peruse some of our work and think d*mn, that sucker is so ugly I’d have to hang a pork chop on its neck to get a dog to lick it.
Note to all travelers. The road to perfection is littered with many failures.
No one said this journey of ours was going to be easy. Well, maybe somebody did, but that’s because whoever said that had no freaking clue about what we do.
My guess is they’ve never tried to do what we do day in day out.
But those of us who do this writing bit of ours daily, know what it’s like when we hammer out some really crappy stuff. We’re always struggling to improve with each new body of work in the hopes of turning out something that will resonate with our readers.
When it works we often give ourselves a brief moment to do a little happy dance. Sometimes we even re-read the work just to see why so many readers liked it.
And then we spot a typo or a grammatical smudge in our latest work, groan in dismay, and promise ourselves to do a better job of writing and editing.
Even when we think we’ve written our best work, we realize we haven’t. And so it goes with this writing career of ours. Many times our best needs to be better.
We understand we need to get back on the horse, bicycle, moped, or cross country elliptical and do it all again. We know we need to do it with the intent to write it better than the last time. We do it because it’s in our blood, of course, but we also know if we continue to write, we’ll get better at it.
I don’t believe any of us will ultimately achieve perfection. But I know a lot of us, if we’re willing to acknowledge the fact there is always room for improvement, will get pretty d*mn close.
In my opinion, getting pretty d*mn close is certainly good enough for me.
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