Striving for perfection—a fool's dream
More than two years ago I wrote a blog for my web site about a particularly moving spiritual experience. It began with an insight I had gleaned while editing a book on various business principles for a client near Boston.
Wanting to let him know the impact working on this project had made on me, I sent him a link to it. A short while later, he replied that in the third paragraph he thought I must have meant to use a different word. Sure enough, I had muffed it. Because this particular item held great personal significance, this miscue really bothered me.
At that point, I thought, “I have to get another set of eyes looking at these blogs before I post them.” So, I emailed a fellow freelancer who used to edit a magazine I wrote for to ask if he would be willing to do a trade-out: “Edit blogs for my web site and I’ll do the same for yours.”
Many months and dozens of blogs later, this arrangement has saved us embarrassment and helped fine-tune them before they go hurtling into cyberspace. I only wish I’d had the time to send him a missive for another web site recently, when I used the word “death” instead of “earth.” Hard to explain that bobble, except it came in the midst of explaining how starvation affected a significant number of people worldwide.
I mention all this to say that over many years as a freelance writer and book editor, I have learned that no one is perfect—especially me. The secret to producing good blogs, articles and books isn’t that a wildly-talented writer gifted with supernatural abilities does everything. It also takes a team of editors, proofreaders and others reviewing the writer’s rough drafts to refine them.
One of the best memoirs I have read on writing is by mega-selling author Stephen King. Whether you’re a fan of his fiction or not, his explanation of the hard work that goes into writing are instructive for anyone who hopes to put words onto a page and have others read them.
Accepting my imperfections has been a major step in my career. It’s not that I didn’t make mistakes in the past, but experience (and age) has made me much more aware of them, and willing to acknowledge them.
The difference that makes is I’m no rarely paralyzed when I start writing, whether that is a blog, an article or a chapter of a book. I accept the fact that I probably won’t get it right the first time.
Recently an editor gave me an assignment, but said she couldn’t nail down the exact length for at least another week. Wanting to get the draft done before the last minute, I drafted up a version at the top end of the range I had received. When I finally heard from the editor, I learned there was only enough space for a shorter version.
That necessitated going back to the file and carving away, summarizing some anecdotes and eliminating various quotes and details in an effort to hit the target. As I did this, I saw the truth: my first draft contained a fair amount of “fluff” and unnecessary verbiage. I was glad no one else had a chance to see it.
So, do yourself a favor and shed the idea of perfection. It will free you up to go ahead and write, knowing that it may take three or four attempts to succeed.
An experienced freelance writer, co-author and book editor, Ken Walker edits blogs for several contributors to Church Central and has coached various bloggers for the site. A member of the Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), he has co-authored, edited or contributed to more than 50 books. You can see samples of his work or ask about his services as a writing coach by going to http://www.KenWalkerWriter.com or by e-mailing email@example.com