Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What is "Good Enough?"

We writers obsess over our work.  We go back through each line and wonder, Did I adequately cover the plot point here?  Which characters are fully developed, and which ones are lacking?

Such obsession is a good thing when done in moderation(I know, I know, obsessively moderate sounds funny...deal with it).  It helps increase the quality of our work and lets each revision be better than the last one.  However, at some point, is the price of the qualitative increase really worth it?

Some are now shocked I would say such a thing.  "How could you?" they'll shriek.  "We should want our work to be perfect!"

That would be a lovely goal, but it's a tad unrealistic.  At some point, in my opinion, you reach a point of diminishing returns.  Holding ourselves to a high standard is a good thing, but holding ourselves to perfection, especially when it prevents us from ever releasing our work, becomes self-destructive.
(Is this good enough to watch the game on, or will you forego football until you get that 82" flatscreen?)
George Patton used to say that a good plan violently executed today is better than a perfect plan executed next week.  The gist is that sometimes we have to go forward with what we have.  We can nitpick every fine detail until it's pitch perfect, but I'm not sure we'd ever release our stories.

Have you ever written a story that you kept going back to over and over to revise?  Did that story ever get in front of readers?  If not, then I urge you to go back and ask yourself if your own vision of perfection was the enemy to getting readers to enjoy what you envisioned.

This isn't to say that we should be going out an intentionally releasing shitty work.  We've all written stuff that isn't up to snuff, and we know better than to put it out there since it'll crush the trust the reader has given us to produce quality.  That's not what I'm talking about - I'm talking about knowing that we have a good story that people would enjoy, but refusing to release it because we want to just make one more change.  That kind of thinking is exactly what keeps a lot of people single since they yearn for the perfect guy or gal and won't see the quality right in front of them.  This leads to regret years down the road when they realize the opportunities they've lost.

Look back at that piece of work you've been holding onto.  Is it really because it isn't ready, or is it because you keep fine tuning it into oblivion.  Remember that perfect is the enemy of good, so is your stuff at the level of good?  If so, give it a whirl and find out what happens rather than perfecting a piece that no one will ever see because you don't know when to let go.

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