Free From Perfection: To Be a Writer, You Have to Give Your Work Wings

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
–William Faulkner

As with most creative professions, the definition of “successful” and “professional” are in the eyes of both the person creating and the person, for want of a better word, receiving the creation.

Are you a “professional” artist if someone buys a single painting, or if you work at a job where you get paid to create art?

Are you a “successful” musician if you land a record deal, or if you are simply part of an in-demand local band?

A “successful” “professional” writer is even harder to pin down than a successful artist or a professional musician. That’s because writing is part of almost every trained profession out there. Sales people assist in writing proposals and price quotes. Information Technology professionals write standard operating procedures and policies. Teachers and professors write tests. Everyone writes emails as part of their jobs these days.

So what is a professional writer, and how do you define success in the profession of writing?

The gold standard, even for a technical writer, is publication. If your work is in print for others to read, you’re “officially” a writer.

It’s hard to put any piece of art, and a piece of writing is no less an artwork than a watercolor painting or a classical composition, out there for the world to see.  Art – including written work – is an emotional risk. Even technical writers such as myself put a certain amount of themselves in their writing.

Unlike a piece of art or a song, which can be finished and put out there, a piece of writing has the potential to be endlessly edited and refined. You can theoretically hold onto a piece of writing forever finding new ways to improve it via editing.

Holding onto a piece of writing – subjecting it to those endless revisions until you see it as perfect – isn’t being a writer. If you’re writing, it’s because you have something to tell the world.

If you’re editing to perfection, the world isn’t getting your message.

To be a writer, you need to give your words wings and let the world see them in flight.

Imagine a world without ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn’, or the ‘The Sound and The Fury’. What if Fitzgerald, Twain, or Faulkner had held on to their works?

Suppose J.K. Rowling had held onto Harry, Ron, and Hermoine?

The world needs your words, not your “dream of perfection.” You’ll never know if what you’re writing is truly good until you put it out there for someone else to read.

Perfect is a myth. Set your writing free.

—CMR; 10/08/2018, 12:26 a.m.


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