Pursuing perfect writing is something I am especially guilty of. Though I may be a repeat offender, I can’t remember ever actually obtaining that perfection. That might be however, because perfect writing isn’t actually a thing.
Writing is a Process
Whether the work is a novel or a blog post, writing is never done in one take. As you move from a concept to a first draft, concessions are made. As that first draft progresses to subsequent drafts, more often than not, fat is trimmed, and points are further refined.
This is the natural writing process, and it is all done in the pursuit of a better final product. There is a point however, where an author needs to stop pursuing perfect writing, and simply call it good enough. This isn’t meant to say an author shouldn’t try to make their work the best it can be. I simply mean, that sometimes, the process of polishing needs to come to an end before the chrome is polished right off.
Pursuing Perfect writing until there is nothing left
It doesn’t matter who you are, or how many books you have written. Anyone who has written anything, has been unhappy in some respect about their work. The longer that work is, the easier it is to find fault in one’s execution.
As an example, Gemsong Saga: A Boy Named Zephyr is 73,389 words long. That is 402,462 characters if you’re curious. It is not the longest book ever written, but that is a decent amount of words to put down on paper. In the process of writing those 73,389 words however, typos happened. Punctuation was missed. There were sections that could’ve been written better or explained more clearly. Things were cut that I wish didn’t have to be. Even if it had been flawless, there would always be things I would’ve liked to have added.
I’ve had a few people read the book, and have generally received decent reviews. Personally however, I find it nearly impossible to read. I can flip to a random page and within seconds, I’ll find something I’m not happy with. When I point it out, I usually get blank stares. I am too close to the work, and I can see fault that most others will not. Nothing I do will ever make it perfect, at least not in my eyes.
Were I to have embraced that pursuit of perfection, I would still be retooling it as we speak. That’s not to say I didn’t try, it’s just that everything I tried, resulted in something worse. Gemsong Saga has been in the works in one form or another for the better part of eight years. It has already been rewritten at least three times in its entirety. It was time to stop.
An Author is their own worst critic
As an author, you are unfit to be your own critic. The more you care about what you’re writing, the more enticing pursuing perfect writing will be. The problem is, perfect writing is a myth – it doesn’t exist, as least not when the author is judging their own work.
To pursue perfection is to ensure that whatever you’re working on will never come to be. You will grind it down over and over again, and with time, you’ll begin to resent it. That resentment will build, and one day you’ll just give up. That was what happened to the first versions of Gemsong Saga.
Thankfully, I had someone to convince me to give it one more shot. While it’s not perfect to me, it might be perfect to someone, and they’re probably a better critic than me.
The next time you’re writing something, rework it until it’s close to your vision, and then let it go. Don’t end up with a trail of abandoned works in your wake as you try to obtain the unobtainable.