I’m not a perfectionist. I don’t see a need to do everything with an impossible goal in mind. If I’m putting something off, it’s because I really don’t want to do it, not because I believe I can’t do it right. In general, my non-perfectionism has gotten me through life pretty well. Letting go of the idea that something has to be the absolute best has meant that I’m free to spend my energy somewhere else.
I spent over 90 minutes writing, revising, and editing an article. It shouldn’t have been that hard. Everything I needed was right there in front of me. But I couldn’t make the words come out the way I wanted. Nothing sounded right. I had a strong beginning, a good middle, and an acceptable end, but nothing had flow.
As a person who loves to write, this was beyond infuriating. I want to be able to sit down and have sentences flow from my brain to my fingers like electrical current. I want the thoughts inside my head to magically rearrange themselves into something not merely coherent, but resonant. I want what I write to soar, to sing, to inspire. With a keystroke, I want to deliver a product that will knock people’s socks off. I want it to happen effortlessly (or at least to appear effortless).
Except that it doesn’t always work that way.
Sometimes, I have to struggle to get a single sentence down. Often, I have to make several passes at the same piece. Occasionally, no matter how good an idea is, I have to lay it aside for future use, or trash it altogether because I can’t do it justice.
Not only that, I’ve discovered I absolutely, completely suck at endings. For whatever reason, the basic principles of writing an essay never fully penetrated my brain. I can write an attention-grabbing first sentence, followed by several great supporting points. But I can’t end a piece of writing to save my life. All my summaries sound cheesy or forced, rather than tying everything together in a nice, neat package.
It’s humbling, this craft of writing. I’m sure there are some important lessons in all this. But in the moment, they’re a little foggy.