Nothing is EVER “Perfect”: Don’t Lose Yourself in the Pursuit of Perfection

I imagine EVERY writer at every level has gotten feedback that included a phrase along this line: “This needs to be polished more, get it perfect.”

The fact is, though, nothing is perfect. Why? For the simple reason that everyone has something different in mind. Writing is inherently imperfect.

We’ve all see the TV shows and the movies and the plays that make no sense, yet were made.

There’s a reason ROTTEN TOMATOES is so popular. Look at all the bombs listed in their worst-ever lists. There are features that just ended up being a waste of time and money.

So things are subjective. Everything is.

I taught college-level literature and composition classes for 15 years. Year in and year out my students, regardless of sex, gender, age, or any other aspect of the human condition–were obsessed with “perfect” writing.

I spent over a decade trying to program that dangerous and detrimental thinking out of them, only to have colleagues teach that very thing.

But if you read Old Man and the Sea, any of the Harry Potter books, Shakespeare, and other popular series’ and authors, you see mistakes that even the editors missed.

Writing is never perfect. It’s never grammatically perfect. It’s never mechanically perfect. It’s simply never perfect.

New writers, those who didn’t go to graduate school to get a degree in English or who don’t write or read much, or who simply had shitty English teachers, don’t get that. They have had it hammered into their brains that there is a perfect story, a perfectly written chapter, a perfectly written scene, a perfectly written movie script or stage play.

I am a massive fan of The Phantom of the Opera. I know all the plot holes in it. It’s my favorite stage play ever, but it’s hardly perfect. The same with the blockbuster hit Die Hard. It’s got several blemishes.

Yet we are told to strive for perfection. And we shouldn’t. It adds undue stress.

My advice: Don’t look to be perfect. If you do, you’ll never move forward. You’ll be stuck in place going nowhere because you’re afraid to send out something that’s not perfect.

The reason we have editors and proofreaders and managers and agents and producers and writing rooms and so on and so forth is to take a great idea and make it better.

All we, as writers, do is write the story, hope it’s interesting enough to be optioned or land us a job and then wait for the producer and director and other writers to shred it with the hope of making it even better.

So don’t stress about perfection. Move forward. Warts and all.

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