Good Enough


I have a confession: I don’t really rewrite anymore. I tweak sentences as I go, I remove lines here and there, occasionally cut a whole paragraph, but I can’t remember the last time I scrapped everything but a single sentence, tore a piece down to its studs and started from scratch. I usually find what I’m looking for on the first try.

This began when I switched from writing fiction to narrative non-fiction – specifically the essays I write in this space. For many years I wrote one five days a week. I decided from the get-go that I wouldn’t toil over them the way I did my fiction. I knew I could easily spend several hours on each one, hours spent mostly trying to answer, “Is this good enough? Did I really get it?” So, I gave myself a time limit. I decided I’d do the best I could in 45 minutes. I knew the essays wouldn’t be perfect, but I believed that the next one would be a little better than the last, and the next one would be a little better than that.

This practice taught me the importance of my frame of mind. If I was relaxed, curious, and trusting, not only did good stuff come to me, but I could confidently tell if I was starting to stray off course. I could not, for one moment, worry about what other people would think of it. I told myself I didn’t have time for that, and that it didn’t matter anyway because it was just a blog. I told myself to do the best I could and learn from what I’d done.

I found that not only did I like what I was writing, but I loved the frame of mind necessary to write at this pace. I don’t know what would happen if I went back to fiction. I can’t imagine writing a novel in less than five drafts. But I will never write again from a different mindset. Anything else wouldn’t even feel like writing to me.

I realize in retrospect that I could have worried what people would think, I could have tried to perfect each essay, to make them all bulletproof. Simply telling myself not to do something doesn’t mean I won’t. The option always exists, the way the option to jump off a building always exists. It took this practice to teach me there was no benefit in jumping off the ledge of self-doubt, that it had no bottom, that I would only have to crawl back from wherever I crashed and start trusting again.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.