There's something to be said about perfect - whether something is or it's something we strive to be or try to create. This is reinforced by the expectations put on us writers by the publishing industry: our manuscripts need to be spotless, hole-less, shiny, and ... perfect.
This is understandable. We do want a good looking manuscript that reads well enough to carry readers to its conclusion. On top of that, agents and publishers have A LOT to do, so they will clearly give their attention to something that's easy on the eyes and won't give them a headache. It has to interest them, too. Since I'm a sci-fi and fantasy guy, I don't usually pick up historical romances and biographies.
There's a problem with this insistence on perfection. I've had the privilege of reading a few unpublished manuscripts in the last few years. I liked the ideas in them, but the presentation was hard to get through. These books are now in stores or awaiting a release date. I'm sure we've all had a moment when we picked up something in a book store, read some of it, and wondered how the book ever got published in the first place. How is this possible? How did these folks bypass the perfect manuscript screening process? I know I've written books in the past with equal presentation problems. You can't buy them, though. They're still collecting virtual dust in my hard drive.
Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful about the success of these authors and wish them more deals and success. I've reflected on, without trying to compare, what made their journey different from mine and realized something - these guys weren't trying to be perfect. They knew their limitations and went with them anyway, while I couldn't let go until every line, every word, was right. This makes for slow writing.
Then it hit me as I browsed Facebook, and I wish I could give credit to the friend who posted the words that inspired my thought, but it's since been lost. So here's my version of what was said:
You can never be perfect, but you can be excellent.
In other words, instead of trying to write a perfect book, focus on writing an excellent book. It may have flaws, but so what? If the story is good, your heart truly invested in it, that will be far more interesting than perfect grammar and punctuation. As my personal experience dictates, perfect grammar and punctuation isn't necessary to land a book deal. Focus on being clean and clear and excellent.
This isn't the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. The problem with this perfect mindset is that it's an unattainable goal. When we can't reach a goal, we feel like failures. To prevent feeling like failures, we procrastinate. When we procrastinate, we don't reach our goal.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Let's stop this vicious cycle, I say.
Go out there and be excellent, my friends.
And have an excellent weekend.
What do you think about this topic? Have you been in a perfectionist rut? What does it mean to be excellent to you?
I'm David, and these bacon pancakes are ... excellent!