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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Perfection Causes Writer’s Block; ‘Close Enough’ Cures It


voltaire“Perfect is the enemy of good.” – Voltaire

“‘Close enough’ is the olive branch.” – Bane

Striving to do our best and challenging ourselves to keep developing our skills is vital for writers, but perfectionism only leads to resistance.

asymptoteWhen we recognize that perfection is an asymptote – a mathematical term for a point you can get closer and closer to but never reach – striving for perfection will lead us to continual improvement.

But if we think we can actually achieve perfection, if we start expecting and demanding perfection, we create resistance.

We start thinking we shouldn’t start until we know we can do it perfectly. If our first effort isn’t perfect (and it won’t be), we stop and try to “fix it” before going on, and end up polishing the same paragraph or sentence over and over.

Before we know it, the only thing we perfect is our resistance.

Taking Chances and Being Good Enough

failure saul bassWhen we surrender perfection, we run the risk of failing. Which is a blessing because creativity requires risk and failure.

Even as we acknowledge that truth, we cling to not wanting to fail “too big” or “too publicly,” but eventually even these caveats have to go.

How do we tell when we’ve risked enough? How do we learn to avoid paralyzing ourselves with perfection? How can we tell when our writing is “close enough” to be sent out into the world? We practice.

Writers need places to practice being okay with being less than perfect. We need places where we can learn what’s close enough. One of my places to practice is an agility game called Chances.

Next Post: How is writing like running an agility Chances course and how what I practice in agility applies to your writing practice

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7 Comments on “Perfection Causes Writer’s Block; ‘Close Enough’ Cures It”

  1. Fay September 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    I’ve always known I am not a perfectionist. I believe in “good enough”. Bob, my husband, started out as more of a perfectionist but now after living together for 40 years we can joke about things being “good enough”. That doesn’t mean it is not quality but we realize that things will never be perfect. That applies not only to writing but art as painting and woodworking and also to your life. Being happy with what you have I think is much more enjoyable than trying to always get something you can’t.

    Like

  2. Joel D Canfield September 6, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    In Dan Pink’s “Drive” he clarifies that mastery is an asymptotic goal.

    These things require balancing two opposing thoughts: reach for the goal, but know you’ll never reach it.

    Does the concept of balancing opposing facts properly play as large a role in overcoming writing hurdles as it seems to me?

    Like

    • rosannebane September 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      As we say in Minnesota “You betcha Joel!” Managing apparent opposites is a huge part of writing and is the topic of my next nonfiction book. I think it was Drive that gave me the idea of the asymptote — or maybe it was Gladwell’s Outliers…

      Like

      • Joel D Canfield September 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

        Next book? Oh, h’ray.

        When? (I crack me up.)

        Like

        • rosannebane September 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

          Thanks Joel. The target date for the proposal is April 1, 2014 – no kidding!

          Like

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  1. ‘Close Enough’ Cures Writer’s Block | The Bane of Your Resistance - September 10, 2013

    […] previous post clarified that writers need places to practice being okay with being less than perfect. We need […]

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