Embracing the Incomplete

Back when I was practicing law, I had a sign hanging in my office that said: Perfectionism is an elegant defense against real life.

I kept a separate note inside my desk that read:  If I don’t win your case, I’ll eat a bug. I leave it to you to decide how those two things matched up.

(And for more adventures of being a law student and lawyer, you can read my lawyer romance LOVE PROOF. It’s lots of fun.)

The issue of perfectionism haunts a lot of us. We’re never quite there. Wherever “there” is. And sometimes that feels like a moving target.

It’s why I was interested in this TED talk by Sarah Lewis about success versus the “near win.” About success versus mastery. I loved her stories of artists and writers who knew their work was never complete, but who put it out there anyway. (Or who ordered their friends to burn everything after the artist died, but too bad–friends hardly ever obey those crazy wishes.)

It’s why even though I know some of my novels aren’t perfect, I still let you read them. Because I like the stories and want to share them with you, even though sometimes when I look back at them I might wince at this line of dialogue, that awkward scene, some weird way of putting something that at the time I thought was cool. Oh well. I did my best. And I’m going to keep moving forward and write the next one, rather than constantly mess around with one I’ve already “finished.”

Which is my way of saying that if you don’t love every single word I write, that’s okay–I probably don’t, either. But overall I’m happy with the idea that you and I sat around a campfire one night and I told you this story from start to finish. And we had fun. There were marshmallows. And then the next night we moved on to some new story instead of me saying, “You know last night when I told you the girl in the story’s name is Rose? It’s Giselle instead. And that part about her hating her mother? Forget it–her mom died.” Etc. Etc. BORING. Move on. We already got to The End on that one–give me something new.

With that, I give you Sarah Lewis and her talk “Embracing the Near Win”:

2 Comments on “Embracing the Incomplete

  1. This is SO true. So many times, I, myself, as an avid writer have difficulty with wanting to ‘perfect’ many areas in my manuscripts. Even once your work is published, it’s too often that the author still doesn’t like how it’s written. The thing with writing is that it can always be altered.

    1. True, K.L. I read about some painter, either Manet or Monet, who used to go to where his paintings were hanging in a museum and bring along a paintbrush to still make little changes. WALK AWAY, SIR. It can be crazy-making.

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