"YOU'LL NEVER GET IT OUT if you try
for perfection." These words haunted me while I was trying
to sleep. I had written so many things that I never finished,
I could have filled the back of a small truck with it all. It's
one of the drawbacks to being a writer who is continually learning:
By the time you finish writing something and you go back to read
it, it already seems immature.
Some day, I thought, I'll get over it.
Some day I'll look at what I've written and think it's great.
Although this happened all along with short things because I
could write it and then go back and read it in one day (and I
don't mature that fast), it had never happened with longer things.
So I had those words haunting me when I
was trying to go to sleep: "You'll never get it out if you
try for perfection." Your book will never get published,
you'll never reach the people you want to reach, you'll never
make the difference you could have made, you'll never have the
influence you could have had, and all because you aren't willing
to put something out there that might be imperfect.
Before I went to bed, I was reading a biography
of Mark Twain. One of his many investments that failed was in
a fast typesetting machine for newspapers. Twain thought it was
a marvelous idea, and he put up a lot of money. But when it was
finished and Twain was ready to find a manufacturer and sit back
and count his profits, the inventor took the machine apart to
improve some parts. It wasn't perfect. He needed a little more
This same scenario was repeated over and
over. Twain kept putting in more money and the inventor keep
improving and improving and eventually they waited so long, other
technologies had passed them by and the invention became obsolete!
Conrad Hilton said every time he built
a hotel, it was never perfect, never complete, never ready to
open. Ever. He said he had to just set a date and open, ready
That's true for you and me. We shouldn't
wait. We shouldn't keep tinkering until it's perfect. Put the
rough idea out there and see what you can do with it. Take what
you've got and make something good with it. Write your book and
send it off. Get it out, take a chance. Don't die with your music
still in you.
No, it won't be perfect. Yes, with a little
more time you can make it better. But that will always be the
case. But keep putting it out there and you'll learn. And you'll
have done some good in the meantime. Then the next one you do
will be a little better because you're better and you've
had more input from what you did last time.
Life is an imperfect, messy affair. Get
on with it. Take your chances and try to make something good
from what you have and where you are. And that's good enough.
Imperfect and done has more value than perfect and undone.
A new reader has something
to add to this. Lee Carnihan wrote to us:
I found your website today and love it.
I only wish I'd found it sooner.
I use a quote from Edison to remind me
not to pay attention to my fear of mistakes and a need for perfection:
I havent failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that
I perceive "perfection" differently.
I interpret "perfection" more like completeness. The
dictionary is a perfect collection of all the words in a language
even though it contains the word "mistake," ergo, the
dictionary is still perfect precisely because it contains the
If it didn't, it wouldn't be a complete,
i.e., perfect, a reflection of the language. You need imperfection
to understand perfection. You need the ying to get the yang and
together they are complete. I hope that makes sense.
Also, I changed my concept of "time."
Time to me doesn't exist, it's not physical, it cannot be measured
(no, a clock does not measure time, it's simply a counting device),
and since time does not exist, it cannot therefore be used up,
lost, gained, wasted or have any other adjective applied to it.
So whatever I do with my time I know I'm
using it effectively because I've only got this one moment (the
here and now) to exist in. I never wear a watch either. I can
find out what the time is from everyone else. Once you stop perceiving
time as a finite physical product, it ceases to be an issue of
whether or not you are using it effectively.
I used to get very worried about managing
my time but when I made an agreement with myself to ALWAYS get
the job done regardless of the time, I found my level of anxiety
plummeted. Rather than worry that I wasn't being paid for the
overtime, or that I'd rather be doing something else, I focussed
on getting the job done and hey presto, my worries vanished.
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