Have you ever been so afraid of failing at something that you don’t even try at all? Or have you undermined your chances of success to avoid the possibility of failure?
That’s been me for the last, gosh, several years. Before I turned 30, I would write with wild abandon, practice martial arts with zero self-consciousness, and release flawed but cool game documents.
Then I let the critics in. You know the ones. They never have anything nice to say about anyone and will make sure your grandchildren remember every misspelled word and run-on sentence you’ve ever published.
But they aren’t actually all that bad –– you know what you’re going to get from people like that.
No, the worst critic of all is yourself.
Letting Perfect Be the Enemy of Great
When you strive for perfection, anything less just isn’t good enough, even if the results would be great. Can you imagine if Stephen King never published The Dark Tower because it wasn’t perfect enough?
I’ve written on this subject before, but I want to touch on it again because I think I’ve finally figured out how to overcome it.
There are several documents in my Google Drive that are pretty good (possibly great) ideas that have just been sitting there for years because they aren’t “perfect”. My friends, who’ve persevered through my endless sharing of these documents with them can attest to this (I’m looking at you, Ben).
So what’s changed? Why am I now willing to released finished, yet flawed work? And I’m not talking lazy work, mind you, but also not something that’s been sent to four editors, three lawyers, and Santa Claus for approval.
Well, something snapped inside me when I began watching Gary Vaynerchuk. I started seeing the value of working faster rather than “perfecter” (it’s a word, just don’t look it up), of shipping work rather than letting it sit on my computer, where only my closest friends were privy to it.
Specifically, I saw this video. (Trigger Warning: Gary likes to cuss.)
Now, I’m not about to mess up on purpose, but I am going to stop worrying about critics and what they say. Even James Patterson, one of the wealthiest and most prolific authors of all time has harsh critics who love to run down his stories.
Writing for critics is sort of like choosing the college major your parents want you to pursue. I tried that; it didn’t work.
Anne Rice wrote the best Facebook post about this that I’ve seen, and it’s advice I’m following:
Short version: write for yourself and trust that someone out there will like it because they’re just as crazy as you.
By being willing to fail, I can publish work; and that work just might succeed (that’s what happened with Jadepunk). And if something does fail, I’ll embrace that failure, learn from it, and come back stronger.
No more writing for critics, or fans, or even my friends and family. I’m writing for myself because I’m the first person who gets to experience the story, and I want that experience to be exciting, suspenseful, and fun –– not contrived and sanitized to try to please others. If I’m pleased with my writing, there’s a pretty good chance others will be, as well.
Who are you writing for?