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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.

Writing Your Best is Your Worst Idea


“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.” – R. C. Trench, 1861

In 1861, people had the luxury of contemplating ideas in elegant language like this.

Today, we consume sound bites and acronyms because there’s too much on our plate to linger. GEMO — Good Enough, Move On — is the contemporary interpretation of Trench’s wisdom.

Sometimes you need the best.

If 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, editor, contest or grant judges, 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, the best just gets in the way.

Excellent writing rarely springs fully formed and perfected from our fingers onto the screen or page the first time around. Your first idea doesn’t have to be brilliant. It only has to be good enough to give you a place to move on from.

Don’t Waste Time Waiting for the Best

 You get to your best by moving from good enough to better.

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.

Apply GEMO when you don’t need the best. When you’re developing an idea, researching, drafting, revising, recruiting readers and getting feedback, investigating agents, editors and publications, good enough will let you keep moving on.

GEMO keeps your momentum going. GEMO makes it possible to keep showing up and taking small steps that bring big results.

Save your best for when you really need it. You’ll be surprised how often you can apply GEMO and how rarely you truly need your best.

This is my GEMO blog for the week. I’m moving on.

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2 Comments on “Writing Your Best is Your Worst Idea”

  1. Lorrie Spinney October 7, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    Your GEMO is my GIFT. Thank you.


    • rosannebane October 13, 2017 at 8:57 am #

      You’re most welcome, Lorrie Spinney. Thanks for reading.


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