Sometime ago when I was telling my friend Laura about how painfully slow my writing days can be because I fuss over every single sentence, she said, “You know, Susan, perfect is the enemy of good.” I was very impressed. What a fabulous, accurate statement, I thought. Why can’t I ever come up with a quote like that?
Then I discovered she stole it from Voltaire.
I wasn’t too disappointed Laura hadn’t come up with it on her own because she’s one of those brainy types who’s actually read Voltaire so she came by it honestly. Not me . If I discovered that quote you can bet I did so on Facebook or Pinterest or some other non-smartypants site.
It’s true though: Perfect is the enemy of good.
If I could tap out 500-1000 good words a day, I’d be in great shape. But no. I fuss and play with and torture myself over every single solitary word in a sentence to the point that I never, ever end up with enough sentences to show for the writing time I set aside.
Procrastination and distraction are formidable foes as well.
When I write, I start with all good intentions. I open a new Word document, stare at the empty whiteness, and flee immediately to the safety of the Lifestyle section on MSN.com. Of course, I need to read the “Top 25 Ways to Look Younger” before I write a word. I’m 57 and if one of those ways is cut off your head and replace it with Meghan Markle’s, I’m in. And then of course there’s “Best Hair Growth Treatments.” Another must-read. Every single day I wonder if I should let my pixie grow out or keep it short. Which will make me look younger? Ah, maybe the answer’s in that Top 25 feature.
Distraction. Procrastination. And trying to make Every. Single. Sentence. Perfect. Oh yes, I know how to do the writing thing. Or, more accurately, how to delay doing the writing thing.
One of these days I’m going to let go and let good happen. Progress, not perfection will be my mantra. And I promise to keep you posted on how I’m doing. As long as I don’t get distracted.
Towards the end of my doctoral dissertation I finally had to come to peace with my perfectionism. Of course I submitted outstanding sections to my chair. I rewrote them five times before sending a first draft! Perfect takes forever and accepts no help. Great or even good allows a lot more happiness into your life! ❤️
You’re so right. When I’m working I remind myself that “I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank page.” But oh my, I still struggle!