I was vacuuming the other day and the Dyson ad popped in my head. I have a standard vacuum with two fixed wheels, so yes, turning corners is difficult. Yet my vacuum, a Shark running a little over a hundred dollars, gets the job done. And it does it well. Do I really need to invest in the best vacuum ever, and fork over $500?
Sometimes good enough is the way to go. As writers, we strive for perfection in our work. That’s what we’re told agents need to sell to publishers. So we revise, and revise, and revise. All that’s left after months of work is an over-polished first chapter (or chapters if you’re lucky).
So what if your writing stinks. You learn by writing novels, more than one. The process continues and so must you. If your obsess over perfection, you’ll end up in an endless loop, stuck on the same work forever.
I spent four years working on my Bachelors in Writing at UCSD. In that time, I saw folks rehash the same story over, and over, and over. Come on! Enough with the mid-life crisis already.
A perfect example for good-enough technology is the Internet. Are there better ways to deliver music and video? Heck yeah. The format for the Internet is horrid. Music sounds tinny. Videos come out pixelated and freezes. But the system works. Millions of people can share songs and movies all over the world. It’s a triumph for good-enough engineering.
Now I’m not advocating good-enough in the arena of spelling and grammar. That’s the Achilles Heel that will bring down the indie publishing industry. Your grammar had better be spot on, or else. At least in manuscripts. Blogging is a whole other matter. We strive for perfection, but in the race of posting, I’d rather get the blog post done and get back to my manuscript, than obsess over every detail. It’s a blog . I can fix any error in about five minutes.
When I think of a good novel, I’m reminded of a quote by Stephen King. It may be from his On Writing book, but I can’t say for sure. It goes something like this:
I’d rather have an average looking car with a good motor under the hood. That car can take me places. A fancy car with a tricked out interior might look nice, but it won’t take you anywhere.
Translation, the underlying story matters more than the perfect details you paint on top. Get the engine for the story right, and the rest will just come.