I carry the perfect story in my brain. In this story, my characters are perfectly fleshed out and rounded. Everybody’s motives are crystal clear – even the villains. My setting is so real you can see and hear it. My dialog sparkles. My twists are totally unexpected and profound. The ending is a perfect summation of the story.
I sit and write this story. I do. I think I’ve done a pretty darn good job of capturing my story. Then I go to a meeting of my critique group and learn–not so much.
If you are a writer, you can relate.
See, the story in our heads will never be the story on the paper. I don’t think it can be. This is for multiple reasons. The story in our head is ethereal. When the words pass from the brain to the paper, I swear something happens to them. Maybe my hands are not capable of adequately translating my thoughts. Maybe English is simply insufficient to capture all that I imagine. Maybe the story is really crap and I just don’t know it yet.
(I prefer not to believe the last one.)
Whatever the reason, I’ve talked to many writers and it does seem to be true. But in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t important. As long as we keep one thing in mind.
Don’t let the imperfections stop you from writing the story.
I think it was Anne Lamott who said “perfection is the enemy of the good.” Eventually, those words on the page make up a darn good story. Yeah, it takes some revision. Smoothing, editing, massaging. Input from the critique group. That cruddy first draft (my apologies, Ms. Lamott, but this is a family-friendly blog) becomes good. Not perfect, but good nonetheless. A friend of mine tells the story of the time a student asks when the book is done. My friend had attended a reading by a multi-published, award-winning author. During the reading, the author paused, took a pencil out of his pocket, and made a note on the page.
Answer: the book is never done. It is never perfect.
Stephen King would probably tell you he’s never written a perfect book. Nor any other author. And that’s okay.
As long as knowing that perfection is a myth doesn’t keep us from putting words on the page. From striving to make tell the best story we can.
As long as we don’t let perfection become the enemy of good.