One of the most common resolutions writers make is: to write more. Actually, if you’re seeking publication, a better resolution would be: to submit more, or to ship more.
It’s easy to seek perfection. (Attaining it is another matter.) However, that search for perfection meets the resolution of doing more writing. But does it actually achieve anything?
Steve Jobs, of Apple fame, would frequently say to his designers, “Real artists sign their work. Real artists don’t let it go until it’s perfect.” He co-founded Apple, but left the company, later returning before the turn of the millennium. When he did, Apple gave him a welcoming present. It was a plaque inscribed with the words: Real artists ship.
Seeking perfection prevents shipping, and that doesn’t matter whether it’s the latest Apple gadget or your current article/short story/novel/non-fiction book.
That is not to say that you should not take pride in your work and make it the best that you can. Writing is rewriting, as the saying goes. You should not ship your work after the first draft. But there comes a point in a piece of work when the pursuit of perfection consumes more energy, time and effort than is evident in the end result.
It’s easy to forget that in the life of a piece of writing the only reader to have read EVERY draft is the writer. The general public only read the published version. They haven’t seen the previous drafts. They don’t know how much this published version differs from draft one or draft ninety one.
So the readership has no idea of the changes made between drafts 89 and 91. You might know which two words you changed in the pursuit of perfect. But will your readers appreciate these changes, if they haven’t seen the previous drafts?
There comes a point, in the Law of Diminishing Returns, whereby the amount of effort put in (in the pursuit of perfection) is far greater than the benefit. That’s why Real Writers Ship, rather than hold on until the text is absolutely perfect.
If you’re a perfectionist looking to become a published writer in 2018, perhaps this is the year to spot the point when the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and to have the courage to ship.
Chat to any writer about any of their projects and many of them will tell you about the changes they’d like to make now, if they had the opportunity, as they look back on earlier work. But they can’t, and most will tell you that they are still pleased they shipped their product, even though they may not perceive as perfect now.
Because shipping allows you to move on to the next project.
Happy New Year.