Recently I heard a piece of the fantastic advice given to writers by Pixar’s story board artist Emma Coats (22 tips given via Twitter if you’re interested). Of all her advice, #8 struck me the most. “Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.” In other words: Let it out into the world.
Lately, I received my manuscript back from my editor. This is my first book and thus my first time having this kind of an experience. At this point in the process it’s my job to go over her edits and keep or reject them, adding my own improvements if I have any more as well. I didn’t think it’d be any big deal. I mean, I’ve edited my story ten trillion times. What’s one more? But this is my last shot to really give the book a solid edit before it goes out into the world. In print. Unchangeable. Criticize-able. The pressure has been a little surprising. I’ve seriously spent hours staring at my screen, stressing over every period and em dash, worrying about wording and transitions that I’ve already re-worked 1000 times. At my writer’s guild, when I told them this, one of the women laughed and said, “That’s when you know you’re done.” A weight lifted just a little bit off of my shoulders. Because even though I love the book with my soul, and think it’s a fantastic story well told, there have been a few times when I’ve had to set a paragraph or sentence aside, where I’ve had to say, “You know what, this one right now–if I had several months I could maybe improve it, but for right now, it’s good enough.” I feel guilty even writing that. In a culture that tells us that everything must be the best and that we must constantly be striving towards perfection, how could I possibly put a sentence out into the world that is merely good enough? But sometimes accepting good enough is what keeps us from being frozen forever, what allows a very good story to go out into the world and influence people instead of staying in your drawer for the next fifty years while you strive for perfection. Good enough. It’s been a lesson on writing. And life.