Enemy of great

What is good, Alex? Endings for $400, please.

All levity aside, this is something that sticks with me. A piece of advice from Emma Coats really resonated (and the rest of it was pretty incredible, too):

“8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.”

So true and yet so hard to do! especially for those of us with more than a small tendency toward the P-word. Perfectionism. Good is the enemy of great (see Jim Collins), and perhaps I’m misinterpreting the quotation, but good enough is always better than perfect. Because perfect, you see, is unattainable.

Not in life and not in art. We can come close, don’t get me wrong. And it is always better to aspire to the zenith than accept mediocrity. But there’s a yawning abyss between mediocrity and good enough. Β Don’t fall in!

I strive to do my best during my writing, especially now during revision. But sometimes, I wonder if many wonderful books have been lost to the desire to make them perfect, rather than submitting them when they’re good enough? Here’s hoping mine will not fall prey to this fate.

In the meantime, I really need to focus on Emma’s “16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.”

7 thoughts on “Enemy of great

  1. Leslie, to me it is a matter of striving for excellence, not perfectionism because, yes—“perfect” is unattainable in this respect. I’m not quite comfortable with “good enough” IF that’s what you start out pursuing. There are some things in which “good enough” is more than enough, but for a serious writer looking to get published, I think we need to at least strive for excellence and do our best to determine when we’ve reached “good enough” in relativity to which step we’re at in the process.

    What always makes me uncomfortable is the thought of that period between a finished project (and I mean completely finished–published) and when we look at it in retrospect, only to find we fell short of the “excellence” we set out to achieve. Then we HAVE to accept that it was “good enough,” do our best to let go of it and move on.

    1. Striving for excellence is always a good thing – no pun intended – but too often we focus on what is wrong with our work and not with what is right, leaving stories that may very have been publishable to sit, unread, in the proverbial drawer. Or we miss opportunities because we are too busy perfecting our manuscripts. In this context, “good enough” may well be great. πŸ™‚

  2. When I submit a ms, I am sooo happy with it. Sometimes, later, I see where it can be improved and sometimes, I think its just right. Either way, I know that in the lucky event an agent or editor believes in it as much as I do, she/he will want their own edits. I’ll try my best to oblige with the goal of making my characters come as alive.

  3. Leslie, today I saw a reference to a book that came highly recommended (I searched all my histories and inboxes and could NOT find the source!), and tonight I went to Barnes to check it out. It’s HOW TO NOT WRITE BAD by Ben Yagoda. It looks good, actually, and I may be buying it once I get a coupon πŸ˜‰

    I’m mentioning it because in his introduction, he mentions the “good-enough” writer, if I’m quoting him correctly. Anyway, I thought of you immediately πŸ™‚

      1. I’m glad you said that ’cause I trust your opinion πŸ™‚ The reviews on Amazon were mixed and not as outstanding as I expected, from the review (that I can’t find!) I read. Thanks πŸ™‚

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