Monday, November 9, 2009

The Burden of Perfection

Hi everyone,

How many perfectionists are out there? Raise your hands.

I have to admit, I'm not one of them. For me, I'm usually satisfied if I've done the very best job I know I can do, and I'm good with that.

I'm thinking about all the revisions I've had to do lately, and the extensive amount of work it takes to focus on every sentence, every comma, every single letter in every word to make sure it is "perfect," and at the same time knowing that it can't be perfect.

I don't think I really know what perfect is.

Is perfect a book without a single typo or formatting error? I think that's what we all strive for. I know I personally read through my manuscripts at least ten times, and pass them by five different beta readers trying to scour out those nasty little things.

I have another writer friend of mine who swears gremlins live in our computers and add new ones in to mess with us after we finish our edits. I'm starting to believe it.

Is perfect a book that never once yanks me out of the story? Again, that certainly is a goal worth striving for. I read a book that's pretty popular, but the overuse of two words was so egregious I couldn't overlook it as a reader. Then there are character actions that I don't get, or a trope I don't care for rearing its ugly head.

And that's the problem with this type of perfection, there's too much variation person to person to please everyone.

So what are we left with?

If perfection is unattainable, personal effort is not. The only thing I can reasonably achieve is control over my effort toward a book. The day I feel guilty because something isn't perfect is the day I admit to myself I didn't put forth my very best effort.

So long as I know I've done all I can, that feeling is perfection.

Jess

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