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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.

GEMO Ends Writer’s Resistance

If it’s a matter of “Do my best or do nothing,” you’ll end up doing nothing most of the time.

If It’s a matter of “Do my best or do nothing,” you’ll end up doing nothing far too often

What’s GEMO?
a) Tickle Me Elmo’s cousin

b) a command for sled dogs meaning go right (Gee) even more (Mo)

c) a motto that will get your writing unstuck and keep you moving

If you answered c, you’re correct. If you answered a, you’re going to have a hard time finding GEMO at ToysRUs. If you answered b, huskies will laugh at you behind their paws. (Okay, let’s be honest, huskies will laugh in your face).

GEMO stands for Good Enough, Move On. It’s a bit crude, I agree, especially when compared to what R. C. Trench wrote in 1861, “The best is oftentimes the enemy of the good; and many a good book has remained unwritten…because there floated before the mind’s eye the ideal of a better or a best.” But like all acronyms, GEMO is easier to remember.

Sometimes you need the best. But most of the time the best just gets in the way.

perfectionismIf you’re opening someone’s body up with a scalpel, you have a moral and legal obligation to be the best surgeon you can be and do the best operation you’re capable of. If you’re driving a race car at over 100 MPH on a crowded track, you owe it to yourself and your fellow drivers focus your attention completely to be the best driver you can. If a friend or family member is facing a life-altering trauma, you need to be fully present and compassionate to be the best witness you can be.

If you’re polishing and perfecting a manuscript or query to send to an agent or editor or to a contest or grant application, the writing must be the best work you can do.

But when you’re not operating on someone, racing the Indy 500, helping a loved one through a crisis or putting the finishing touches on a manuscript, you don’t need to be your best. Good enough is good enough. Good enough is where you get to move on.

Demanding your best when you don’t need the best will only get you stuck. If it’s a matter of “Do my best or do nothing,” you’ll end up doing nothing most of the time. Because you simply can’t be your best all the time or even most of the time. If you were your best all the time, by definition, that would just be your average.

So settle for GEMO when you don’t need the best. When you’re developing an idea, researching, drafting, revising, recruiting readers and getting feedback, even investigating agents, editors and publications, good enough will let you keep moving on, keep your momentum going and keep showing up for the little steps. Save your best for when you really need it. It will be a lot less often than you might have previously thought.

And that’s the GEMO blog for this week. I’m moving on.

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3 Comments on “GEMO Ends Writer’s Resistance”

  1. best game news websites July 22, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    And it could be in keeping with current tendencies.

    Hm. I’ll undoubtedly be checking this one out.


  2. Joel D Canfield March 30, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    I love that my friend Cheryl wrote about a similar concept a couple days ago:


    We’ve allowed “good enough” to come to mean NOT good enough, and it messes with our perception of accomplishment.


    • rosannebane April 2, 2015 at 8:17 am #

      Thanks for the connection Joel. I just wandered over to read Cheryl’s post The Hurdle’s Hurdle. It’s interesting to see through the other side of the mirror.


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