It’s something that is often grained into us, not only as writers but in everyday life: strive for perfection.
But is this mantra really attainable? Never. Could the journey to perfection damage our opportunities for good writing instead? Absolutely! Should we just give up in striving for excellence? No.
The first problem in the idea of perfection is that it’s completely binary: yes or no, is or isn’t. It denotes total flawlessness, without any fault or defect. In my early days of my writing journey, there were many hours in which I could only make myself write one measly paragraph. I revised it for hours, trying to get that perfect prose, that instant publishable gloss. But of course, I failed in my mission, simply as I saw no other perspective.
It’s a cliche, but one I live daily. It’s about the journey, not the destination. No other saying could epitomise the act of writing any clearer. Writing is a long-term commitment, a commitment that could take months or even years to excel (not perfect). It’s a craft that no one truly becomes a master of. There’s boundless room to adapt or improve.
The fear of failure is a powerful self-sabotaging tool. Those that only aim for perfection often get so worked up about the end result and not the rewarding and gruelling progress of writing, they do not dare to work outside the box or push themselves further, setting only goals and achievements they know they can’t fail, restricting their creativity. Writing is about pushing your abilities and capabilities, seeing what works and what doesn’t. You can never be that dream writer you’ve always wanted to be if you’re too scared to fail. As Winston Churchill famously said, success is just going from one failure to the next with the same amount of enthusiasm!
Which comes to my final point. Aim for excellence and growth most of all, rather than the unreachable trap of perfection. You should always strive to do your best, that is not striving for perfection. Understanding your shortcomings, no matter how painfully humbling the experience may be is a crucial tool in improving not only your writing but your resilience.
By the time you’ve finished writing your novel and start sending it to publishers, you’re going to appreciate all that resilience, patience, tenacity and confidence you’ve gathered along the way.