The Drive to Be Perfect

…is pretty much useless.

I tend to be a perfectionist in some ways. I’m more anal than most people I know about spelling, cleaning the kitchen, and doing things in a very specific order (like the laundry). But I’m also not as much as stickler as I could be, at say, work. I’m a tech writer, and generally, that means that I’m responsible for the little crap that no one else cares about. Like is the word Website always capitalized? Is it always one word? And what about teammate? Do we use a hyphen? If both ways are correct, which way do we do it this time? And in the other thirty-seven documents that are part of this task order? And should we use 12 point font for captions, or 11 point? You get the idea. And I do okay with this… except that when it comes to the really nitpicky stuff, I just don’t think it matters that much. My mantra, as I get older, seems to be evolving into “good enough is good enough.”

So how does this apply to my own work? That is a question I’m still working to answer. In light of my recent editorial adventure, I’m still looking for solid footing for my ego to stand on. And I’m definitely not thinking that I know better than the editor I chose, or that I will not take much of her advice to heart. But I am saying that I write partially because I enjoy it (the other part is because I can’t not — what a great sentence.) And when it ceases to be fun, how much further do I want to push? I certainly understand that the act of polishing a manuscript isn’t always as fun as coming up with the story in the first place. And I know that ripping apart your own work is a notoriously difficult task. And it’s fun as long as I’m keeping the objective in mind — that it would be really fun to have an actual book OUT THERE… whether published through traditional venues or on my own. That would be fun.

I think that is what I’m going to try to focus on. I’ll work with a couple willing beta readers — hopefully a few in the same step of revision that I’m in, so I can beta read for them too — and then I’ll move forward with the best product I can create without driving myself completely over the edge.

How do you know when what you’ve got is good enough?


3 thoughts on “The Drive to Be Perfect

  1. I am my own worst enemy at times so for me, it will never be good enough. Which is probably why I have deleted a lot of work……I guess my biggest failing is impatience. I don’t have the patience to be patient. I know full well that the first draft is always the weakest. Yet it needs to be right that first time. Silly thinking on my part but it’s there, embedded into the back of my brain.

    • Virginia, I think we’re all our own worst critics. But in the drive to be creative, I think we sometimes have to turn the critic off and just let ourselves enjoy the process. And then go back with a different hat on, but still a gentle and loving attitude, one that understands the fear of judgement (even our own), and edit. Don’t be too hard on yourself!

  2. I recently had the same revelation about perfectionism (and I very much have perfectionist tendencies). And starting my own business has really challenged my ability to need to be in control, because–well–so often I’m simply not. My mantra has since become “when you don’t plan everything, everything goes as planned.”

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