December 19, 2013

Perfection Not Required

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

We want to do our best. We want to always present our work with the perfect grammar, spelling, wording and content. We always want to hit that mark of perfection if possible   but perfection is not required. Never has been and never will be.

Can you name an author who has yet to go back and read their work years after it has been published and dare to say it was perfection? No most go back and read it and say how they wish they had written something in a different way. They wish they had gone further with explanations or had said less with more. They wish they had changed something on every page. Is this because it wasn’t perfect? Possibly, but I think it is something entirely different.

I think we go back and see our faults or corrections we would make because we have grown as writers. I think it was perfect at the time it was written but we have grown and moved forward with additional skills, ideas or style. I think every time we write we perfect our craft a little more.

If you are now or have ever been in a writers group you have probably had someone in that group which you thought was perfection in their writing. I know of such a person. I love to hear their work read. When we have a short writing exercise   and are called on to share our work, I know we will hear the best reading from them. I never want to follow them with my work because I feel so inferior.

The puzzling thing about this writer that is so perfect in my eyes is they have never submitted a piece of work for publication. While I am thinking how superior their writing skills are, they are thinking how inferior they are. They continue to work on perfection and once it is reached it will be submitted. For me that would be never. I can’t wait and again perfection is not required.

I have described two situations which deal with this. One is the person that returns to their published work to critique and edit it with perfect 20/20 hindsight. The other person has yet to submit their work waiting on that perfect piece to be completed. Of the two I prefer the first. Write it, submit it and second guess yourself later. If it is from the heart it is a gift which others should see. If you are like the latter no one will ever see your gift.             

“Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.” Neil Gaiman     
As seen on

Here are Neil’s 8 Rules for writing.
  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Are you waiting on perfection? Are you waiting for that piece to contain everything it should and be written in the way it should be written with the skills of a perfect wordsmith? If you are I ask you to remember this, “Perfection is not required”

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