I was listening to a free webinar by marketing expert, Steve Harrison, and one of the points he made was to not be paralyzed by perfectionism. One of the key traits that is shared by very successful people (what he calls “million dollar” experts and authors) is they develop the instant action habit. (Confirmation for my previous article on Leap Before You Look)
To be a successful author, you need to produce work. Yes you want to produce quality, and yes you want to avoid mistakes and typos and logical contradictions in the body of your work; but you need to determine a balance between polish and publish. Some people will never publish anything because they spend all their time polishing their manuscript with the goal of perfection.
Some thoughts on perfection which you should dwell on like a Zen master:
Perfection is a fine goal. When you are practicing anything, you should strive for perfection. At soccer practice, you should try to make every pass perfect. When writing you should try to make every sentence flow perfectly. But ultimately, perfection is not attainable.
What is more important than attaining perfection is striving towards perfection. Because then you are constantly in a state of growth and improvement. Then even if your work is flawed at the time of publication, your next work will be better. And your next work even better than that one. But your next work will never be better than your first if you never finish your first.
In any learning or improvement process there is a diminishing return. There is rapid progress in the beginning, but the more you improve the less improvement you see from later practice. You will reach a point when any further polishing in one specific area is not a good investment of your time, and you’ll just be better off moving on to a new area.
In soccer, for example, you need to move on from polishing your passing skill to dribbling, kicking, heading, trapping, and running. If you refuse to move on to a new aspect of the game because you are obsessed with perfection in passing, you will be worthless on the field. Same thing in writing. If you spend a lifetime perfecting one manuscript, the world will never know how great your second and third work would have been.
In this digital age everything is increasingly temporary. Everything is in a stage of constant flux and change and evolution. If you publish your work today, then realize that something needs to be changed, you can publish a new version. In fact, in five years you may want to print a second edition anyway, incorporating all the things you learned while working on your last two books. Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, says to develop the mindset of “perpetual beta.” You, your work, your writing, and your brand are constantly being upgraded.
Lastly, perfection is subjective anyway. If it’s perfect in your eyes, someone else won’t like it. So don’t sweat it.
Shortly after publishing my first book I posted this statement on my Facebook fan page: “Just published my first book. I hope 10 years from now, I’ll read it and think it’s terrible. Because that will mean I’m still growing.” I still stand by that statement.
Also, to my European readers. When I say soccer, I mean football.
Final question: “Have you ever been afflicted by the paralysis of analysis?”