A lot of writers tell you to be wary of perfection, especially when churning out your first draft. I will echo their sentiments: the perfect work can never be achieved, and certainly not on your first try. Get those ideas of perfection out of your head. What a lot of writers don’t stress right after that piece of advice, however, is that you eventually have to set your bar pretty high.
You’ve heard me say before that the best work you can do is, indeed, your best work. Putting your all into a project is all you can do. When in doubt, do your best. Don’t you dare be satisfied with anything less, because the market’s a cutthroat place. It doesn’t matter how good other people are: you have to be better.
Well, that’s the article, guys! Good luck, happy writing, and I’ll–wait, what? There’s still more? You gotta be kidding me! I was looking forward to being let off the hook early today! Come on! Please?? Can you please let me go early?? I have a story to write! You gotta let me go, reader!
Yeah, you better believe it. Because the story doesn’t end there: obtaining writing skill is a never-ending task. There’s no point at which you can just sit back on your laurels, even if you’re a world-famous author. Even world-famous authors admit to tightening up their game, and like great machines, even they will rust if they don’t write for long enough.
But for a lot of people, the sense of “okay” is rampant in what they consider to be the quality of their work. In other words, some people learn to live with “passable”. It may not be the best, but no one’s perfect, right? Besides, who even cares? I’m satisfied with it, which means others out there will be satisfied with it…right?
Mark my words: no good will come of this mindset. We call this complacency, and if the word “okay” sits well with you, then you’re well along the path to failure. If you think this way, you’ve forgotten how terrible the market can be to newcomers (among other things).
It’s not enough to be okay. In fact, it’s never enough to be okay. You’ve got to knock the reader’s socks off, bring them to their knees, set them blubbering like babies. You have to grab the reader’s emotions and guide them like a conductor’s baton guides an orchestra. You have to be awesome.
Needless to say, you probably lack the awesomeness of which I speak (unless you’re Brandon Sanderson or Christopher Nolan). That’s okay. I really can’t blame you from being another Dostoyevsky, Cervantes, or Shakespeare. But I can blame you if you’re not always trying to get better.
Even Robert Jordan and John Ruel Ronald Tolkien started out as nobodies and novices, incapable of writing the works that they eventually did. But what separates the boys from the men is their ability to endure–both literally and figuratively. The boys give up and become doctors or computer programmers, but the men hold on and become writers.
What I’m trying to say is to never settle. We’ve all come across that one annoying bit of lore that needs to be revised or a certain scene that must be replaced, but convinced ourselves that we could just leave it behind. Eventually it is forgotten and ignored until publication, when you may or may not regret the choices you’ve made.
Whether or not you regret it, you should be ashamed of not doing your best. If I know there’s a problem in my work, I won’t rest until it’s rooted out. Not everyone is like that, however, and so you may be more reluctant to address such problems, even when you know they’re there. If this is the case, write it down someplace and come back to it. But the story must be, to your knowledge, without flaws. Learn to scrutinize your work as closely as you can, and be diligent in rooting out its flaws when you find them
It’s not okay to be okay.
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!