Publish date:

Perfectionism vs. Progress: When Is Good Good Enough?

Image placeholder title
  • How good does your manuscript have to be before you submit it to an agent or editor?
  • How good does your website need to be before you launch it?
  • How good does your performance need to be before you debut?
  • How good do your recordings need to be before you release them?

People who are passionate about what they create—whose lives are defined by what they create—will often emphasize quality above all else, and can be unrelenting perfectionists.

It's something I deeply admire. I like people who don't compromise on quality, especially when what they create so closely represents (or IS) who they are.

On the other hand, I've seen many journeys come to an absolute stand still due to perfectionism. It can prevent people from making progress.

It's impossible to be perfect the first time out when writing a novel. But maybe it's as perfect as you can make it given where you're at in the journey.

It's like what Ira Glass has said: There is the excellence (or quality) you can see and appreciate—and then there is what you're actually capable of.

This can cause paralysis.

The Conductor and I had a minor disagreement on the issue when discussing a Cincinnati musician who's talented, but a perfectionist. I wondered if this musician was getting too hung up on the details that wouldn't ultimately affect his success. The Conductor felt like perfectionism was absolutely required to set this musician apart from others—it was to be commended.

And I have to admit, I always want writers to slow down, and not rush to submit, and take the utmost care and consideration in revising and preparing their material for agents and editors. And to be tough on themselves.

But deep down, I wonder if some of us use perfectionism as an excuse, which results in self-sabotage—when we fear the result of putting our work out there, when we fear being rejected, when we fear failing.

Photo
credit: Gustavo G

What Are the 6 Different Types of Editing?

What Are the 6 Different Types of Editing?

When you reach the editing phase of your manuscript, it's important to know what kind of editing you're looking for in particular. Author Tiffany Yates breaks down the 6 different types of editing.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Imayo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the imayo.

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Print or Online Article First Place Winner: "Surfacing an Aquatic Diaspora"

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Print or Online Article First Place Winner: "Surfacing an Aquatic Diaspora"

Congratulations to Elaine Howley, first place winner in the Print or Online Article category of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's her winning article, "Surfacing an Aquatic Diaspora."

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Script (Stage Play or TV/Movie) First Place Winner: "Jaguar Woman"

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Script (Stage Play or TV/Movie) First Place Winner: "Jaguar Woman"

Congratulations to Olga El, first place winner in the Script (Stage Play or TV/Movie) category of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's her winning TV Pilot script, "Jaguar Woman."

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Non-Rhyming Poetry First Place Winner: "won't you celebrate with me"

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Non-Rhyming Poetry First Place Winner: "won't you celebrate with me"

Congratulations to Nicole Adabunu, first place winner in the Non-Rhyming Poetry category of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's her winning poem, "won't you celebrate with me."

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Rhyming Poetry First Place Winner: "She Lives in Underbridge World"

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Rhyming Poetry First Place Winner: "She Lives in Underbridge World"

Congratulations to MF Slattery, first place winner in the Rhyming Poetry category of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's the winning poem, "She Lives in Underbridge World"

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Mainstream/Literary Short Story First Place Winner: "Tracks"

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Mainstream/Literary Short Story First Place Winner: "Tracks"

Congratulations to Elizabeth Rosen, first place winner in the Mainstream/Literary Short Story category of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's her winning story, "Tracks."

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Genre Short Story First Place Winner: "A Brief Cameo"

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Genre Short Story First Place Winner: "A Brief Cameo"

Congratulations to D. M. Ullrich, first place winner in the Genre Short Story category of the 89th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's his winning story, "A Brief Cameo."

Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Children’s/Young Adult Fiction First Place Winner: "Upside Down Man"

90th Annual Competition Children’s/Young Adult Fiction First Place Winner: "Upside Down Man"

Congratulations to Sara Karnoscak, first place winner in the Children’s/Young Adult Fiction category of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's her winning story, "Upside Down Man."