The false promise of perfection

One of the biggest obstacles for many writers to overcome is the expectation that their writing be perfect. Perfection is a fool’s game. a false promise in our own psyches upheld by an unrealistic and non-writing public. It is the unicorn. The unreachable fantasy. And yet, so many writers strive for perfection before submitting any writing anywhere.

Not only is this unrealistic, expecting perfection reduces your opportunities by reducing the amount of writing sent out into the world. Revising is necessary, but you must train yourself to understand when a piece is finished enough to submit. Admittedly, this takes practice. The more you write, the more you revise, the more you submit, the more you get rejected, the more you get accepted, the more you will understand where that fine line is…the fine line between revised just enough and revised to death.

Expecting perfection in your writing also vacuums out your confidence and reduces you to a weak, sniveling pile of wriggling doubt-ooze. The more you seek perfection, the more doubtful you become that your work is good enough. Everything you read is better than yours. You compare yourself constantly to other published writers, thinking of course they get accepted, they’re perfect!

No, no, no.

Those other published writers and those published works are most certainly NOT perfect. Haven’t you ever read a published novel or memoir or short story or creative nonfiction essay or academic article and thought, “That doesn’t make sense” or “How did THIS get accepted?!” or “I wish she would have ended it this way instead.”

We’ve all had those judgmental thoughts. First of all, you may not be the target audience for that work. Secondly, you are simply recognizing the beautiful imperfection in that work. You read it, you enjoyed it, you saw room for improvement.

Now apply that recognition to your own work, don’t be so hard on yourself, trust your instincts, and practice, practice, practice until you grow the confidence to say, “This piece is ready to go make its way in the world.”

Drop the search for perfection. Your writing is imperfect and wondrous, just like you. And that’s a good thing.

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2 Comments on “The false promise of perfection

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