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Marissa Lingen

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Good Enough [Oct. 24th, 2016|08:35 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Every writing problem has an equal and opposite writing problem, right? It’s like Isaac Newton or something. So any time you hear a piece of advice, the opposite is almost certainly also great advice for someone. So let’s talk about one of those: the good enough problem.

There are the perfectionists: nothing they write ever reaches “good enough.” They revise it over and over again and never let anybody see, or never anybody who might do anything with it. Or they don’t revise at all, because everything is so flawed that there’s no point, they might as well try again and look, the new thing needs revision too. Definitely flawed. Might as well scrap it and try again.

And then there’s the other category: the people who don’t want to be told how to revise their piece, they want to be told that it’s good enough already. Just as it is. You may find some of these people at student workshops, but they don’t want to workshop, they want to be the immediate and effortless star of the workshop. They want to show up and have the pros running the workshop say, “This is so amazing, let us shower you with fame and wealth.”

Perfectionism is the enemy of good fiction. So is the conviction that good enough is good enough.

The thing is, if you’re going to ask “is this good enough?”, the question is, for what? Good enough to be published? Well, sure; all sorts of awful things have gotten published. Good enough to be a strong contender for publication? Maybe. Good enough that you’ve done what you can do with the idea with the skills you have right now? Good enough that you learned from it? Good enough that figuring out what to do with it and moving on to the next thing is the best plan? Good enough that it will help you make the next thing better?

If you’re aiming for good enough permanently–if you want it to be a minimum bar you clear–then it can get in the way of aiming for good.

If the only thing that’s good enough is perfect, you’ve given yourself an excuse not to work for better.

And either way you miss the satisfaction of “as good as I can make it for now, and the next thing will be better.” Which is worth finding, whether you’re publishing or not.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2016-10-25 02:14 am (UTC)
The thing is, if you’re going to ask “is this good enough?”, the question is, for what?

^This. Plus eleventy-billion.

I have written short stories where I think "well, that's good enough," and what I mean is that the idea really only has so much potential in it, which isn't a lot, but it's good enough that I can probably sell it and good enough that I won't feel embarrassed when it's in print. Other times what I mean is "I'm pretty sure this would be 50% more awesome if I were a better writer, but this is the best I can do with it right now, and that's good enough -- better than letting it sit around waiting for me to become a better writer." Or there's "this is good enough to send to my crit buddies; it isn't done yet, but I need a break from it anyway before I try to revise again."

Situational good-enough-ness: it's a thing.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2016-10-25 05:35 am (UTC)
If I sign up to all of the above, can I be showered with wealth and fame now? Or just wealth, I'd settle for the wealth...
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[User Picture]From: cloudscudding
2016-10-25 08:12 pm (UTC)
Love this.
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[User Picture]From: takumashii
2016-10-26 04:34 pm (UTC)
This is very relevant to me!

I am working on what's maybe the eighth draft of a book after many rewrites to request from a publisher with whom things ended up not working out. I told my agent I'd do one quick revision and then we could try to put it on submission again, and -- well, I kept thinking, "This isn't the book I wanted to write, not yet." I still don't know whether I'm being too perfectionistic, embarking on this new draft rather than just doing a spit-polish -- but my gut is telling me that "as good as I can make it for now" has changed a great deal since I wrote the fifth or sixth draft, and it's worth it to write something that lines up with the best I can do now.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2016-10-26 04:44 pm (UTC)
That's such a hard balance, too, because you want things to go out looking like your current best work, and yet you also want to do new work that is starting at the higher level. Writing: always more to juggle.
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