When is Good Enough, Good Enough?


This is my first blog post in 2021. Like everyone I know, I too hope that this year is better than 2020.

This morning I read a tweet posting from an author I don’t know. He was writing about being finished with his book and being aware that it still had some editing errors. I found nothing particularly novel about the fact that he was speaking of some lingering problems. What struck me was this statement, “I suppose I’m a lazy writer, my mind is totally focused on getting my story written and I ignore correct punctuation.” He went on to say, “There seems to be a massive amount of published books available with typos and simple errors of all types throughout the story.” It sounded like a justification for not fixing known problems in his writing.

I keep turning over these words in my mind. I rushed through completing my first novel. I really wanted to see it in print, to hold it and know I’d done it. I wanted to say not only that I’d written a book, but that it was also published. You’d think my vanity would have drained away when I got fatter and my hair got thinner. No such luck. It lingered then, and it lingers now.

I’ve regretted my rush to “get it finished” attitude for nearly three years. I still think it’s a good story, and I’ve received some kind words and reviews for the book. But I was also told once by a person who’d read it, “I almost stopped reading it because all the punctuation errors.” You can believe those words have remained tightly glued to my brain. I also recall reading once in Writer’s Digest, “In writing, perfection is not the goal, it’s progress.” For me, they are also powerful words. I have never been perfect with anything in my life. I have made progress, perfect, no. My second book is also a good story, and it is better written and better edited. Perfect no, good yes. There seems to be a space between it’s good enough and I want progress in making it better.

So what are we to think about an attitude of “It’s good enough,” vs. “I want to make it as good as possible.” Many of us cannot afford or choose not to pay a large amount of money to have our writing professionally edited. John Grisham has sold 300,000,000 books. He and his publisher can pay editors whatever is required to make his books near perfect. I say near because I continue to believe perfect is not possible. Okay, perfect is possible. A red-tailed hawk in flight is perfect. I have elected to try to self-edit and to use my writing friends to assist me.

My writing friends and those others in the writing group in which I belong, talk about several writing issues. “Why do I write?” is among the most common. Often, I hear, “I write because I have to.”  Maybe I’m a bit envious of that answer, but it often sounds like one of the clichés we are supposed to avoid using. My answer is simpler. I write because I enjoy it and because I like how it feels to accomplish something tangible. Being only 299,999,890 books away from sales equal to John Grisham, I have to hold onto some reasonable answer. Yet there is still something missing in my short response.

Today, on our Zoom writing group meeting, we are going to discuss our 2021 writing goals. As most know, goals are supposed to be reachable, somewhat difficult to make them a challenge, and tangible. This year I want to complete a book I started about three years ago. I also want to have enough good stories to consider publishing them in a book. I also want to write  “poemoir.” More about that later.

But (Don’t you love sentences that start with – But) I will set aside one or two of those goals if I can’t make them good. At some point I will need to define for myself what that g word means. I do know I want whatever comes next to be better than what came before. I think if I can figure that out, I can have a more accurate answer to why I write.

A last tag on thought.

I asked a skilled and successful author friend of mine if she had an outline or resource to help me understand how to better self-edit my work. She provided helpful information, but it was not what I really wanted. What I was seeking was a recipe to tell me how to fully bake a book. To tell me to add a teaspoon of this and add a dash of that and out of the oven comes the next Of Mice and Men.

What I wanted was akin to asking Roger Federer to show me how to hit a backhand, and then believing I’d be ready to play at Wimbledon. Or maybe I should ask Eric Clapton to teach me a C chord and I can be the half time act at the next Super Bowl.

The simple answer is – Nope, it doesn’t work that way. Thanks for playing, try again next week.

Note to self.  David, pull up your big boy pants, set your ass down in the chair and do the work you need to do.

“If you’re going to do something, strive to do it better than anyone else. Do it all the way. If you’re going to half-ass it, why bother?”       Ashly Lorenzana

Louie’s Book Bark

Conley Bottom – A Poemoir by Benjamin B White. White is a retired Coast Guard officer, and currently an editor at Running Wild Press. This brief offering is thirty-four poems about White’s childhood and adult years. He calls it a poemoir because it lays out his life in a very revealing and approachable manner through his poetry. This is a joy to read. In addition, do yourself a favor and consider his book The Recon Trilogy + 1. It is epic length poetry about the Vietnam War.

Louie gives it a five-star rating.