Perfection in Writing?

Japanese willow in spring

Perfection in Writing?

Get over yourself. You’re a writer. So write.

Need some help getting over a desire for perfection? Self-doubt, seen in an obsession to perfect your prose in fears of being exposed as an unworthy imposter (we’ve all felt that, right?), can be debilitating. Here are some tips from great writers that have proved helpful to me.

“No matter how hard you work on your writing, there will always be other writers who are better, faster, deeper, more popular, richer. And that’s fine.”
– Jane Yolen

“Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.”
~ Albert Einstein

“A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.”
– John Steinbeck

“Knowing how to work as a farmer has helped me a lot as a writer. You don’t, for instance, have such a thing as ‘farmer’s block.’ If you’ve got animals to take care of, you take care of them.”
– Wendell Berry

“Once the book or the story is written nobody cares and nobody knows what was written on a good day or what was written on a bad day. Nobody knows or cares how fast it was written. (Coraline was written over ten years. That’s an average of about nine words a day.) By the time the book’s been copy-edited and is ready to be published, nobody will know or care or remember which days you enjoyed writing it and which days you didn’t, not even you.”
– Neil Gaiman

“Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.”
– Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), in Following the Equator, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar

“To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Isak Dinesen [Danish author Karen Blixen] said that she wrote a little every day, without hope and without despair.”
– Raymond Carver

That last quote is truly one of my favorites. We all understand that we should write without despair. But without hope? It means that writing is not a matter of wishful thinking, but what you do, one day at a time. It is a commitment not requiring a promise of a wonderful outcome. Perfection of means or confusion of goals? Your goal as a writer is to write, today. It is what we do. Dithering over the perfection of means will hold you back.

You’re a writer. So write.

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