As makers — writers, artists, entrepreneurs, creatives — we have grand visions for the things we make. When I imagined this article in the shower, it was legendary, epic, a piece that would transform how you thought about your work and your life. Or at least a piece that would make lots of people want to work with me. Or at the very least one they’d clap for… or read.
And while any of that could happen, it’s unlikely that all of it will. And that’s ok. Because even if no one else ever reads this, I’m a little bit better off for having written it. Sure, I’d love for my writing to make even one other person’s life a little better too, BUT the benefits to me are benefits enough. I am a writer, I have written, I have given the world the opportunity to read it. That is enough.
Except that most of the time it’s not.
I lose sight of the big picture. I tell myself that it’s not enough to have just written something. That my writing needs to perform to be valid. That it needs to be well received and acknowledged. And since my work is being held to these high standards, it needs to be perfect before I click publish.
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I talk to creatives all the time who get stuck on the same thing. How do you make something so amazing, so groundbreaking, so powerful, so perfect that it can’t fail?
And my friends, that’s f*ing ridiculous.
How do you even define perfect? There’s no standard for perfect, in fact, things made to be standard often get overlooked. And it’s not just perfect to me — how easy would it be if my personal preferences were the only thing I thought about before publishing?
No, the perfect we’re after is perfect to an imaginary stranger — someone we’ve created in our heads. And really, we want this to be big, so we imagine many someones with many preferences. Perfect becomes a moving target.
Now I’m polishing each of my creations for a horde of imaginary people, none of whom actually exist. That’s bonkers, right? Yet so many creatives get stuck in this. They spend their time holding onto what they’ve made, or even hesitating to make it, rather than putting it out there in the world.
Getting Past Perfect
What’s the solution? I’ll admit that this is an ongoing area of improvement in my work, but these two basic strategies are helping me:
- When you’re working on something, let yourself get lost in creating. For me, this means returning to what made me want to write about a topic in the first place. Asking myself what I find interesting about it, what I would have liked someone to tell me about it 5 years ago, what I like about it. When I start thinking about how others will respond, I ask myself these questions to remind myself that writing is first and foremost something I do for myself.
- Remember that done is better than perfect. Sure, I could do 15 rounds of editing on a piece until it’s just right, or I could do 2 and click publish. The latter of these scenarios leaves me a lot more time to write something else. The former puts me at risk of never publishing anything at all. Will everything I publish be a masterpiece? No. Is that ok? Hell yes.
I want to write the perfect conclusion to this post, something to wrap it up brilliantly and tie everything together. And I’m sure there are many rounds of polishing I could do to make this a much better article. But… I’ve got other things to write.
So I think it’s time to click publish.