Deadlines: The Death of Perfection?

Deadlines: The Death of Perfection?

I owe you an apology. It’s been several weeks since my last post. Things have been … well, a tad hectic recently. 

This time last week I was having breakfast with the Archbishop of Canterbury. And between 8.39am and 8.59am I and my colleagues demonstrated to him the new online resource we’ve been creating over the last year for churches. (It seems the planning that goes into Archbishop visits is similar to that of Royal visits.)

Our new online resource wasn’t scheduled for launch until next year. But when we heard (six months ago) that the Archbishop was visiting the Diocese, we were able to pitch events for his visit and, amazingly, launching our new toolkit was one of the events he choose to do.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

So, there we were, six months ago, with a project deadline that had just been brought forward by at least six months. As writers know, nothing focusses the mind more than a deadline, especially one that has jumped ever closer.

And it wasn’t until we were standing in St Laurence’s Church, in Ludlow, Shropshire, that I realised what we had achieved. The idea for the project only originated 12 months earlier. Yet here we were with a specially designed online toolkit comprising some 200 questions which, depending upon the answers, generated a bespoke report detailing the most relevant resources from a database of over 300.

Why am I writing about this on my Business of Writing blog? Because it has many similarities with our writing projects.

Deadlines

You stand more chance of success if you have a deadline for your writing project. You need something to focus on. And not only that, but having the deadline helps you prioritise. When our deadline suddenly jumped forward six months, we immediately re-appraised our other workload. What could be left? What could be put on hold? What could be dropped completely?

Give your writing project a deadline and suddenly the answers to these questions become easier.

Imperfection is Acceptable

We couldn’t deliver the project we originally dreamed of, with this shortened deadline. But as we discussed the option we realised that what we originally dreamed of was a perfect toolkit. And yet, the more we thought about it, the more we realised that it was never going to be perfect.

Now, what was my password again?

In the online toolkit we link to various resources currently available on the Internet. Well, we’ve all had experiences of weblinks being broken and not working properly. And we also realised that some of the resources we’d identified might date, and so we might want to delete them from our toolkit. Likewise, new resources will become available, so it would be useful to update those.

And so we came to realise that the toolkit wasn’t going to be static. We will need to update it. Therefore, there will never be a time when it is absolutely perfect. Once we’d accepted this, it made the impending deadline attainable.

There are times when we need to let go of perfection on our writing projects. There is a principle of good enough. Ask any author if they like the published version of their novel and some will tell you that in hindsight they’d rather they’d done this, or they wish they could change that. In the author’s mind, the novel is not perfect. Yet for many readers it is. They don’t know what the author imagined. All they know is what the author delivered. And if many readers love it, then, to them, it is perfect.

So don’t let imperfection hold you back.

And remember, there’s a world of continuing improvement now. Apple recently launched it 13th operating system for its iPhones, snappily named iOS13. Yet within a week they’d issued an update and version 13.1 is now available. Version 13.1 is not a major overhaul. It simply fixes a couple of minor issues that hadn’t been identified when version 13.0 was released. So version 13.0 was not perfect, but that didn’t stop Apple releasing it.

Sharing your productivity with the wider world.

And for those writers who self-publish, you have full control over your work. So if you spot a spelling mistake in your eBook that you’ve uploaded to Amazon, you can easily correct it and upload the revised version yourself.

Imperfection is not Sloppiness

That doesn’t mean that accepting imperfection means you can be sloppy. We still had time before our deadline to test the toolkit several times with beta testers in the community. Real people used it in the real world and fed back constructive criticism. The same goes for our writing projects. Having a team of beta readers to go through and read our work, identifying any plot holes and discrepancies (as well as any grammatical errors and typos) is still vitally important. Our writing projects still need to be blooming brilliant, if not perfect.

So in my part-time role at the Diocese, we took a business-decision to exploit an opportunity that came our way. And that’s how we should be thinking about our writing projects too. If an opportunity arises, consider it. Think about how it might affect your other writing work/projects and adjust them accordingly. And ask yourself how perfect your writing product really needs to be. Don’t let your strive for perfection prevent you from launching your work to the wider public. 

Good luck.

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