“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.
Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
Michael J. Fox
I’m currently taking part in a course about teaching students how to write … which is interesting. Too early to say anything about the quality, but it reminded me of a lot of things I’ve read or experienced. Among others, when one teacher showed a very simplified model of the communication process. Essentially, it showed “I” (the author) and “you” (the reader), with boxes for the person, the situation, and the culture.
Thing is, there is no you. There is only them.
Unless you are writing a love letter (and do better than Verdi’s “Falstaff”), you have multiple readers. Meaning that there is not one person who reads your text, but anything from two (the two reviewers who grade your thesis) to a couple of hundred millions if you can pull of a Harry Potter. So there are countless other people — each with their own personal history, situation and culture who read your books.
And that’s brilliant!
Not only because the more readers, the more successful you likely feel, but also because this means that it is absolutely impossible to write a perfect text.
Think about it, to be perfect a text has to really speak to another person — in a way that leaves no room for improvement. Even if it were only for one person, this leaves very little room for anything. A couple of experiences more, and the other person might react differently and the text would no longer be perfect. After all, if you re-read a story, it’s likely that your impression of the story differs. And with more than two or three readers, there is no way to write anything that is perfect for all these readers.
That can take a huge load of expectations of perfections from your shoulders.
Don’t try to write a perfect text, if will only paralyze you or trap you in a revision loop. Write an excellent text. One that other people can understand, find access to.
It’s the best you can do and anyone can expect of you.