Being a "Good Enough" Writer is a Brilliant Strategy
All writers are a crazy mixture of egotistical, manic, single-minded, optimistic on the one hand and sensitive, catastrophizing, scattered and pessimistic on the other - at least all the ones I know. How do we live and produce work in a world filled with such extremes? Especially now when our political and physical reality is so chaotic?
Every step of the process toward publication for writers is fraught with potholes that can potentially blow our tires. Equally, every step promises to build to a run and then we’re off, we’re speeding along, we’ve done it—we are indeed the writer genius we always knew we were destined to be.
What about the beginning of the writing journey? In our up moments, we know our book will be worthy, it will stun readers and reviewers, it will make our parents proud. We may only have the concept, and in our minds it’s brilliant.
But in our down moments, we know with equal certitude that we will fail. Miserably. We will be pedantic. No one will understand what we’re getting at. Our characters will be considered dull and stupid. Our finely wrought scenes will be thought clunky or even worse, boring.
In those moments, aren’t you just a little tempted by the idea of being “good enough” rather than brilliant? There are millions of good enough books out there that people love. Do we always have to strive for brilliance?
When you read a great book, do you feel buoyed and hopeful? Or do you feel dispirited and intimidated? This is where the magic of denial and delusion and diligence all work together to keep us tethered to our computers. We find the tiny spark of hope deep inside us and we keep going.
I’ve moved offices countless times since I started writing seriously, and each time I lug my favorite books with me. I keep them close for moments when I need inspiration, and to remind myself that excellence comes in many different forms. But we must not allow ourselves to be cowed by the idea of brilliance. Though we may seek to write brilliant books, like those precious favorite stories that changed our lives, I think sometimes it's better to strive to be good enough instead.
Sometimes we need to trick our frantic, hypersensitive brains into just getting on with it. Just trying. Doing it and seeing what happens. Try for good enough—you can build on that over time.