The Problem With Perfect
Trolling the Web this week, I found this recent interview with author Mark Salzman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing myself years ago. Mark’s work is infused with such a rare combination of intelligence, compassion, and generosity. If you don’t know it, please check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Among other things, the article I read notes that Mark has been teaching workshops on overcoming “the maddening obsession with perfection sometimes called writer’s block.” That phrase got me thinking about the pressure too many of us put on ourselves when we’re writing.
Perfection is the enemy of productivity when I’m cranking out a first draft. I continually remind myself to not get bogged down in details at this point, to let the little things go and get my arms around the big picture. The perfect (or as near as I can get) language, the exact character nuances and plot pacing will come…just not yet.
Writing, I remind myself, is a process of refinement. With each draft, the story improves. The thing comes into focus. There’s no way to rush this process, and all the worry and obsessing won’t help a bit in the end. So I tell myself: Just stay with the book and it’ll take you where it needs to go. Just hold on and, drumroll here, enjoy it. Writing can be an enlightening process of discovery, a revelation even. As writers, we just sometimes need to get ourselves out of the way.