Not too long ago I used to wait for lightning to strike. I used to wait for the inspiration, the perfect idea to hit me in the head and then I would write.
“You want to write? Write. Don’t wait for a muse. Write. Just plant your butt in a chair and write.” –James V. Smith, Jr.
Good idea, eh?
It doesn’t really matter what you write. It’s why you write. I do it because I enjoy it. I do it because it makes me feel good. I do it because I want to, need to do it.
I don’t know what your motivations for writing are, but whatever they are, keep writing. If you think that you have to write something great, inspirational, profound, unique, breath-taking, or perfect to get anywhere, well, I have news for you. Writing is never perfect. It’s a process. It’s a journey, not a destination. Books are never finished, just released. You could edit the same paper a dozen times, a million times—to infinity and beyond—and it will never be finished. You’re too lazy to make it any better, or you’re rushed for time, or you’re bored, or you did your best and it’s time to move on.
I stop sometimes because I’m satisfied with my work. Sure, it’s not perfect. I don’t necessarily think that it’s inspirational or profound. My idea might be cliché. It may seem comparatively dull when I compare it to my other work. That isn’t why I sat down and wrote. I wasn’t looking for perfect. I was looking for an expression. I was looking for something… doesn’t matter what it was, really, but just that I found it. When I found what I was looking for, I was done.
At times, we are pressured to be “finished”. We have a deadline to meet. So, we turn in a draft. We call it our final, but really, it’s only a draft. All published books are drafts. They all have flaws. Really, there’s never a point where an author suddenly becomes amazing at everything. It’s practice. Publishing is the point where it’s polished enough to display, even with its problems.
It’s like art. There’s always “something more” that you can add to the drawing, painting, whatever it is, that will make it better. We analyze our own work. “Well, her nose is a little too high, and the hair didn’t do exactly what I wanted it to…” but to your three-year-old niece, it’s perfect.
Perfection is all in the eye of the beholder, just as beauty is. One man’s straight is another man’s crooked. Little children envy each other’s drawings as much as adults do. They can’t believe the work that the adult is doing, but the adult is too busy admiring the work of another artist. It follows suit, then, that one person thinks they are a terrible writer, looking at someone else’s work in awe. The little kid standing next to him is reading that ‘terrible’ book, silently smiling and enjoying the marvelous fairytale.
Comparison can be a good thing when we’re using a realistic value of things. It’s what we use to judge what is right from wrong, who our friends should be, and whether or not a scene fits with the rest of the manuscript. It’s just that we tend to focus on our worthlessness than our worthiness. We should probably not compare ourselves to others’ work. Yet we do it all the time. When we compare ourselves to others, we tend to compare our worst with their best.
That habit is unhealthy. If I look in the mirror and focus on how imperfect my face is, I’ll be depressed and avoid social situations out of embarrassment. Bad plan. Do you know what the difference between something silly and something awesome is? Confidence. (I mean, look at Lady Gaga. She wears ridiculous outfits for all of her shows, but just going by the hordes of fans she has, you’d never know it.)
If, however, you can focus on the reasons that writing is enjoyable—discovering worlds, finding a purpose, venting frustrations, manipulating words, telling stories, sharing ideas, bringing about change, or whatever else you can love it for—then eventually, that writing may find its way to someone who loves it just as much as you do. Or possibly more.
Maybe to them, it’s perfect.