This is Emma Coat’s eight writing guideline. When I first read it, I thought, This advice is wrong! The Uber Rule of all writing clearly states our stories must “work” before we let them go.
Fact: A finished story isn’t finished until it’s doing what we want it to do, and doing it well with no spelling and grammar errors.
But revisiting Emma’s rule, I realized this is not what she’s talking about here. Ms. Coats used the word “perfect” – an entirely different matter, begging the questions:
- How many times should we rework our thoughts before they’re perfect?
- Will our content ever be perfect?
- What IS “perfection” anyway?
I write twelve hundred blog words a week, polished twenty times before publishing. Three days later I’ll reread the post and find five places I could tweak again. But golly, when I kissed that column goodbye and sent it to you, I was SURE it was the best it could be. And yet, it wasn’t. At the time though, it sure felt good enough to ship.
So at some point we must ask ourselves, when is good enough, good enough? Where do we stop our creation convinced we gave it our best shot?
There is no easy answer about our personal best because there is no hard-edged line where we can no longer make our work a little better. If we continue to practice anything, we’ll improve and what we’ve done in the past won’t be as good as what we can do in the future.
So again, when exactly is our art finished?
It’s finished when the public owns it, when we can’t change it anymore. As Emma says, it’s then time to move on. You’ll do better next time (another shot at getting it perfect).
I’m not an anthropologist but I bet Homo sapiens is the only species that endeavors to create perfection when nothing is perfect. We live in a universe of teensy-weensy particles that don’t know what they want or where they’re going and most of the time they end up everywhere at once or instantly annihilate themselves or combine to form something else. If this is perfection, it’s random and changing.
We love cut gems and especially expensive diamonds because they look perfect with absolutely straight edges. On a molecular level those straight edges resemble the Alps during an earthquake with lots of space moving all around.
Nope. No perfection there either.
When science measures things really, really closely we find that nothing in our universe is perfect and stable, except God maybe, who supposedly created the universe and therefore is not part of it.
So if God is perfect and we’re not, is mediocrity God’s creation?
Must be. Biologically none of us are born error-free. Some babies are close to being a superbly working bio-engine but we all eventually breakdown. Human cells cannot duplicate themselves perfectly forever, and their atoms never do.
Your house cat intrinsically understands all this and long ago gave up trying to cough up the perfect fur ball. Still, our teachers, parents and mentors coax us to bring home A’s, be the smartest student in class or the toughest homey in the hood, the prettiest girl at the dance, the best dressed man at work, the highest paid female executive, the most popular pop singer, the fastest Olympic swimmer, the most famous author – or starting way back, the best spear thrower, hunter, gatherer, hut builder, farmer, sculptor, church designer, mayor, astronaut, president.
As a species we can’t stop striving to push past old limits and boundaries. I think that makes us a very special animal, but not perfect.
Conversely, those who don’t strive for perfection, to be the best, to compete, to win, are thought to be lazy and unmotivated, ultimately inferior to the high achievers.
But really? Are non-competitive people of less value to society than those playing the game? Beyond the survival thing, if we don’t have to kick ass to take care of ourselves, are we less a person for wanting to watch TV rather than writing for it?
Are people who don’t strive for perfection, or even improvement, shirking their job as homo sapiens? Should we write them off as losers, assuming we’re winners? Should we resent them and call them Takers, deeming ourselves the Makers? Should we hope the Lesser Ones will just go away?
See where I’m going? When it comes to everything and everyone, at what point is good enough, as in ACHIEVING ENOUGH, good enough? When is your neighbor, your co-worker, your banker, your congressman, boss, wife or husband; when are they all good enough to live on your GUESS-THEY’RE-OKAY list?
More importantly, when are YOU good enough to live on your list? Or their list?
All these questions I’m asking you, I’m asking myself. How close to perfect do I have to be before I can relax? At what point is my best shot good enough? And if it never is, will I be content?
I think people who don’t consider striving-for-excellence relevant, are happier dudes. This doesn’t mean they don’t try. They do, because it’s their nature. But the pressure’s off. They don’t LOSE because they’re not in the race. They’re not asking, “Where am I now? How far did I get? Am I better than yesterday? Am I better than my piers? Am I famous yet?”
They don’t judge themselves and we get a benefit. They don’t judge you and me either. They’re contented with what they’ve achieved at the point they’ve achieved it.
Imagine that. To be happy about yourself just the way you are, where ever you are.
Are these non-competitors rich? Sometimes.
Famous? Some of them.
Are they in Wikipedia? A few. And they’re written up because they know the Secret-of-Life.
And what is that? I’ll tell you part of it. Letting go while accepting yourself allows you to have everything you want, as long as what you want is not for you.
Generous, giving people rise to the top because they love the process, and that process is not about them. They love the doing, not the becoming. And because they love the doing, they do it a lot and get good at it. Since they’re not yearning to become Number One, they don’t think about failing at that. Achieving anything less than perfection is simply part of the process and deserves a feeling of accomplishment.
DOING for others, is winning.
But people of service don’t give to gain, although it comes anyway. They don’t see the world as completions and failures. They consider their lives a sea of change and challenges, all interesting, all creative, all productive. For them, human existence is about learning what won’t work so they can move on to what does. Missing is necessary! It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Only a few people of this caliber live among us, yet they influence our world in both subtle and crucial ways. They’re not keeping score. We are. And they’re as close to being perfect as any soul can get while still walking this Earth.
Perfect people don’t think about status or recognition for their gifts. But as I said, some get it anyway. I wish I could join their club. I’d like to be closer to being perfect. But if I were, I wouldn’t be interested in writing about it and this post wouldn’t exist.
Originally posted on Curiosityquills.com.