I have been writing with at least a little desire to publish since the summer of 2009. It took me three and a half years from the time I began conjuring up stories to actually deem a story ready for other peoples’ eyes. And that story, Mindspeak, which I spent about two years writing and editing, is still not a work of perfection. Are Mindspeak and the two books that came after it still my most popular novels? Absolutely. But if I were to read the first book I ever published today, I would probably cut some words here and there, want to rearrange some sentences. Why? Because I’m a better writer today than I was in 2013 when I first published Mindspeak.
But I’ve pretty much made a living on the first three books of the Mindspeak series since 2014. The books that came after helped, of course, but the Mindspeak series (mainly the first three books) is what launched my career. And it was not a perfect launch into the publishing world.
Now, let’s look at this photograph I took yesterday:
I am NOT a photographer. But I like pretty things, and I found this door pretty, so I snapped a picture on my walk through Midway, Kentucky, which was my inspiration for the Midland, Kentucky, the small town setting in the first three novels in the In Darkness series.
This photo is obviously not perfect. I hate the vent over the door. Or is that a window that looks like a vent in this imperfect picture? The entire photograph is crooked and off-centered — you can see one of the front light fixtures, but not the other. The flag. The flag! Oh, how I wanted to fix the flag yesterday before I took the picture, but alas, this is not my house, and I didn’t think the people living in this house would appreciate me walking up to their front door and fixing their flag so that I could take a picture of their front door.
I could, of course, crop and rotate the photograph to remove the vent and straighten the lines a bit, but the flag will always be tangled up in the light. The photo will never be perfect. But the door is still a very pretty color, the landscaping is beautiful, and I find the photograph pleasing and interesting to look at.
Is it perfect? Absolutely not. But does it do the job? Sure.
This is one of the most important questions writers and creatives need to ask themselves when finishing a book or some other creative project. Is it perfect? Probably not. Not much ever is. But does it do the job it’s supposed to do?
The second question will mean different things to different people. For me, I want to know if the stories I’m finishing will entertain, tell a complete story, please my readers in some way. If I can answer yes to those three elements, then it’s time for me to let go of that story and get to work on another.
I cannot fall into a trap of asking the following questions: Will everyone love this story? Will I get nothing but positive reviews? Is this story perfect?
If I ask myself those questions, I tend to become paralyzed with fear of publishing anything. No one would ever publish a story or put any work out into the world if they asked themselves if their work was perfect.