In Search of Perfection

A colleague asked me recently to serve as a guest on her business blog, offering some insights about writing. Ever since she made her request, a variety of thoughts on my beloved profession have been flitting through my head. One of the effervescent ideas I managed to trap before it floated away related to the necessity of embracing fallibility.

We writers, like our fellow human beings, are imperfect, and our writing is never as perfect as we’d like it to be. We fuss and polish, but eventually, a deadline looms, and we must submit our work. Inevitably, we’ll look back a day or a week later and think, “I should have added this,” or “I should have stated that differently.” It’s unlikely the casual reader will ever be as critical of our work as we are – and that’s a good thing.

Good writing takes effort, and stories or articles generally don’t spring fully grown from a scribe’s head. Think back to a story or a book that captured your fancy. Don’t imagine that it began in the shape you now see on the page. Even the best writers put their ideas down on the page and then tinker with the result.

This tinkering may be simple copy editing, or fixing mistakes in spelling and grammar, or it may be more substantive in nature: rewriting full paragraphs or placing them in a different order. We patch up any tears in our tales before they make their way to the red pencil-wielding editor, or the one who gleefully boots up the Track Changes function on the computer.

If we’re skilled and diligent, our published work will look remarkably similar to the pieces we submitted, and we’ll be asked back to write others. Nonetheless, it won’t remain untouched. Editors are hired to improve writing, looking closely for flaws and requesting changes. It’s all part of the process of seeking perfection.

And even though we know we’ll never escape unscathed, our writing altered here and there, we keep trying. We may never achieve perfection, but without that goal, we’d be doomed to mediocrity.


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