Practice vs. Perfection


This is my mom and I. My mom is an amazing woman and continues to be one of my biggest cheerleaders in pursuing the writing life. She is a huge fan of practice, of taking risks and of not being afraid to fail. I owe a lot of my decision to persevere in writing to her encouragement.


Practice and perfection are two things I have been thinking about a lot lately with regard to writing. Perfection is something I strive for, but practice is the space where I live. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s the space where I want to stay. Why? Well, what happens when you stop practicing?

You plateau.

Perfection gives this deceptive sense of arrival, that we have made it to “the zone” and there’s no need to strive further, to push harder. However, those who are continually in a mind set of practice have their head down and their game on. They take nothing for granted, and they continually throw out new goals for themselves before they have hit the old ones.

Maybe this doesn’t settle right with you, because you think of practice as the dry run, the pretend stuff before you get to the real deal. Like when you’re playing a board game for the first time and everyone says, “Okay, this is just a practice round.” However, that round matters, because it is what enables you to play the game well in the long run.

Make no mistake; practice is where writers are made.

So, what does pursuing the writing life look like with a practice mind set?

1) You practice. Obvious, but it needs to be said. Keep writing. Rain or shine, happy or sad, stupid or brilliant, write until you think your fingers might fall off. Don’t talk about it, don’t think about it, don’t strategize about it, just do it.

2) You publish. Living with a practice mind set does not mean you wait to show your work to others. Share it now. Write a blog, publish an e-book, start an email newsletter. It is so easy to make excuses to wait, to make it just a little better, but you can’t listen to those voices. Seth Godin encourages the principle of shipping, and that definitely applies here. Write it. Ship it. Repeat.

3) You persevere. You never arrive, and this is the crazy, maddening, exhilarating thing about this whole journey. You keep practicing, and keep pushing forward, and before you know it, you look back and have a boat load of finished work to your credit. Is it perfect? No. Has it made you famous? Probably not. But that’s not the point anyway.

“Practice makes perfect” is never a true statement for the writer. In fact, practice begets more practice in the writing life, but you know what? Out of all that practice may come powerful work that can change lives.

Is it hard or easy for you to live in the practice mind set when you’re writing? Do you struggle with perfectionism? Feel free to share a comment!



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