I was reading something today about an author who was so paralyzed with fear that he couldn’t get his first book done. He agonized over every little thing. He also has this habit of reading other books and picking out flaws in them. So really…is it any wonder why he’s petrified of putting his work out in front of the world?
The reality of this whole writing thing is that no book is perfect. I don’t care how it’s published or how much it is. I don’t care who wrote it or who published it. I don’t care what genre it is or how many years the author spent polishing it up. Perfection is impossible because people aren’t perfect.
This may not come as a news flash to most of us, but then I come across people who have expectations so high that no one will measure up. Not only are these people too hard on themselves, but they tend to make the rest of us miserable.
A book is just a book. In the end, that’s all it is. Sure, it’s a part of us that goes into it, but if it’s not the best book ever written, the world will keep spinning. Besides (and this should be comforting to all perfectionists out there), no matter how good your book is, someone will hate it. If you sell enough copies, you’ll get a 1 star reivew. If you sell enough copies, you’ll get an email from someone who tells you how you could have written the book ‘better’.
So knowing that someone out there will hate your book for one reason or another, don’t you feel a little bit better about not being able to write the perfect book? It gives me a lot of comfort.
All we can do is our best. That best may not be someone else’s best, but guess what? It’s not their book. It’s our book. The good news is no one can write our book as well as we can. Why? Because we’re the ones invested in it. We have the passion for our story no one else does. You could write out an outline and hand it off to someone else to write, but it won’t be the same story because they’ll insert aspects of themselves into it. So only you can write your book.
So my advice to all the perfectionists of this world who agonize over the quality of their book is to keep in mind two things that will help: mercy and grace. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to fail.
And really, it’s not whether you succeed or fail but what you do with that success or failure that define your true character. If you can be successful and humble, you’re golden. If you fail and can pick yourself back up, dust your pants off, and get another book on out there, you’re amazing. If you can find the time to say a kind word when you see a fellow author’s book bashed, then you’re the kind of friend I want to have. In a world of competing authors, finding authors who are encouraging and supportive is a necessity. I don’t care how well you write. If you’re out trashing other authors, I don’t want to read your books.
Anyway, my point in making this post is that it’s not writing the ‘perfect’ book that matters. We are a work in progress, and our writing will be that way as well. Each book we write should be better than the one that came before it. Progress is slow, but you’ll never get better if you linger on in the same story for years on end. You need to learn there’s a time when you have to send the story out into the world. Then get on to your next tale.