So when I talk about writing, I mention perseverance as being key to my success. I wrote for 14 years before I was published, and by that I mean, I WROTE. I wrote full novels; I tried to get them pubbed. (This was before the advent of self-publishing, and I’m not sure what my voyage would have looked like if I’d had that option.) So, keeping at something even when it’s not working out is obviously a critical part of my story.
Except. It’s a bit of a cheat. Yes, I kept at it. Yes, I wrote and I submitted, and I wrote and I submitted. But I would have written anyway. I’m always going to be making up stories because I always have. If you are a storyteller, it’s just what you do. You create narratives whether anyone hears them besides you.
I realized last month, that saying I am perseverant is only half the story. It tells you what I did right before anyone was paying attention. But what about after? What about the time since I’ve been published?
Here it is: my other strength is that I am not a perfectionist. As the adage says, “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”, and I adhere to it. I work hard at my writing–VERY hard. I follow up details; I chase down references. I never knowingly let mistakes go to print. (They get in there but it’s never because I turned a blind eye to them.) But at a certain point, you have to be okay with turning loose of a book and truly LETTING IT GO. There will always be words you could have tweaked, sentences you could have stripped or embellished or massaged. But perfection is unattainable, and the quest for it is the surest way to misery.
Once I have done my best, I set it free and move on, and that is an extremely liberating way to live. I joke a lot about being lazy or a slacker, but the truth is, I simply refuse to exert myself to anguish over things I can’t change. The strange thing is that I never realized this about myself until last month, and I was rather surprised when I did. It’s not something writers tend to talk a lot about, but I think we should. If we’re not going to torment ourselves, we have to come to terms with the imperfection of our efforts.