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Knowing When ‘Good’ Is Good Enough

April 28, 2010
Starring role...

Image: Pewari Naan

It often amazes me how one key theme will emerge from numerous conversations with unrelated people in the course of one or two weeks. And it happens all the time.

This week is no different.

I read Perfection is Overrated on Fuel Your Writing. It started like this:

I’ve stared at this article for the better part of an hour.

Dedication, you might call it, were you the flattering type (thanks!). Idiocy, you might counter, if you weren’t. But let’s label it perfectionism, the bane of the diligent writer, and the whole messy reason I’ve rewritten this introductory sequence three times over.

I’m tempted to rewrite it again.

That’s the terrible truth of it: perfectionism, celebrated in fields that demand little attachment to your work, proves a dangerous hurdle for folks who make a living off the sweat, blood and tears they pour onto the page.

~Matt Madeiro

Been there. Done that.

Next came the conversation with a coworker about “analysis paralysis.” You know, that horrible condition that causes some to overthink everything. To re-read, review and re-analyze everything you write over and over and over again until you lose sight of the primary objective – and drive everyone else nuts.

I’ve worked with a few people inflicted with this debilitating condition. You?

Finally, the frustration of a client regarding the inability of his writer to produce anything on time because she wanted it to be perfect – instead of striving for simply well-written, clear, accurate and on-time.

But, I Need an ‘A+’

Some will say that this constant re-analysis and obsession with perfection is a necessary evil. They say it has to be just perfect. “Should we use ‘that’ or ‘which’? Should we flip the clauses? Should this sentence be shorter? Longer? Should I add more paragraphs? Delete some paragraphs?”


Does the article clearly articulate your primary objective? Does it accomplish your goal, as-is, without any further changes? Is it clear, concise and compelling? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then you’re finished. The article is complete. Call it a day, and move on to the next task on your bulging to-do list.

“But it needs to be an “A+!” It could be better. If we just tweak it a bit more, it could be great. I’ve been thinking about this particular paragraph, and I think we could modify this one word to make all the difference.”

It Can Always Be Improved

Yes, maybe. Writing can always be improved, modified and tweaked. But to what end? What are you trying to accomplish? Will it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

A friend of mine shared a philosophy of his previous boss, which went something like this: “An on-time C is always better than a late A.”

Now, as a straight-A student, I had to think about that for a minute. I, too, have tendencies to want to make each piece perfect. But just because I think it’s perfect, doesn’t mean my client will. Everybody’s perfect is different. And that’s why, my friend’s boss is right.

It’s always better to ensure you meet your clients’ deadline with a solid, clear and accurate article than miss the deadline just to have the piece ‘perfect’ in your mind.

You have to know when ‘good’ is good enough. How do you avoid the perfection paralysis?

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