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?


When is it Good Enough?

Perhaps never, is the answer I most expect here. I think that writers would work something far past its best possible state if allowed to tinker endlessly. Luckily, most of us have some kind of goal or deadline — at least self-imposed if we are not among those lucky enough to be working towards a date imposed by someone else (an editor, a slavering public eager for the next installment, etc.) I do think that sometimes good enough must be good enough. That work, at least subjective work like creative writing, must follow a bell curve of sorts. I think you can tinker and fix and improve to a certain point, then you reach the top of that curve — a place no writer can ever realize for themselves that they’ve attained — and you begin the increasingly speedy slide down the other side.

At the risk of having not reached the apex, I have called the book “done for now” and submitted to an editor for help and comment. This will be the first objective view of my work, and that’s a bit nerve-wracking. Okay, a LOT nerve-wracking. There is a chance that this woman, a best-selling author herself, will say, “Seriously. Time to quit.” I’m hoping not, but it could certainly happen.

So wish me luck!