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Monday, January 24, 2011

Is Good Writing Good Enough?

If you’re passionate about life, good probably isn’t good enough.

You don’t just want to be known as a good parent, a good employee, a good friend.  You want to be great!  Maybe even excellent.

Something inside of us wants to be better than good.  

The problem? 

Some days, we’re not so great.  In fact, we’ve not even good.  We barely get by on average and we hope no one will notice when we really screw up.

I was thinking about this dilemma the other day – not being good enough – in the context of writing. 

Some of us want to be great writers.  But great writing takes time.  It takes talent.  It takes discipline and determination.

The truth is, we can’t be great at everything.  And while I’m far from a perfectionist, some days I just don’t want to settle for good.  Which means I have to make some choices.

Enter the dreaded zero sum game.  Time is finite.  Which means the more I strive to excel in one area, the more I neglect another. 

Do you ever find that good just isn’t good enough?


Esther said...

Amen! i like when you said "it's the dreaded zero sum game". life kind of feels that way doesn't it? It helps to prioritize...but at some point, you've already prioritized the drivel and you're stuck picking between important and also important!

Bradley said...

Susan, I think you nailed the unfortunate reality- our time is finite, and we can't excel at everything. Choices become important. I suppose I could improve my writing and poetry vastly by giving it full time attention. But I must be satisfied grabbing small chunks here and there, putting out bits at a time. But I think in the end , it's the writing that's more important than what kind of standards I achieve. I'd ratherbe free to write than kill myself over greatness.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

This one hit home because it's the lie most often whispered in my ear.

"You are not good enough."

Not as a writer or a mom or even a cook. As a person.

And as the enemy so often accomplishes, it's a half truth. I'm not. None of us will ever be. But (this one is a HUGE but) God has me covered. Because of him I'm a royal priestess. And a million other cool things.

~ Wendy

Unpolished Parenting said...

We are having to submit all of these forms of different things we are accomplishing at work. Some weeks I have to turn in a blank sheet for participant follow up because I've been spending my time working with employers and doing other things. Even though I'm doing my job and my boss knows this as well, it crushes me to see a form with so many blanks on it. It tells me that I'm not good enough. Yet I physically cannot do every single facet of my job all of the time.

Heidiopia said...

For sure-- good just sometimes doesn't cut it. I want to be GREAT at everything I undertake. Hence, fear of failure or even fear of just being "good." Ugh. Why do we do that to ourselves?

Amy Sullivan said...

I don't want to be a good writer, stomp, stomp, stomp. I want to be more. I burn to be more.

Susan DiMickele said...

"I'd rather be free to write than kill myself over greatness." I like that.

This post screams for another response. Come back on Friday for a post about grace.

T. Anne said...

I strive to write my best every single night and sometimes when I look back and review my work it stuns me how horrifically far I'd fallen.

Sue Harrison said...

The great thing about being a writer is that great doesn't have to happen in first draft or second or....

Richard Mabry said...

Thought-provoking post. On the flip side, I learned this from a famous facial plastic surgeon: "Perfect is the enemy of good." It's possible writers to over-edit, over-think, and in the end shoot ourselves in the foot. That's why I always keep previous drafts.

Laura said...

Of course I do -- and it drives me crazy.

Then I remind myself the crazy daily life sometimes feeds (and funds!) the writing and I tell myself to get over it.


BigD said...

Didn't Mark Twain say there are no great writers, only good editors?

I have a hard time teaching my daughters to do your best, but within reason. I'm constantly trying to get my kids to understand that "your best" isn't always "perfect". My oldest can't seem to let go and move on with a project until it's "perfect". That's meant late art projects and papers sometimes. And, as a result, lower grades.

Erin MacPherson said...

I find that good isn't good enough a lot-- especially when it comes to writing. I feel like so many times writing is only 10% of the equation and there's so much more to deal with. *sigh*. Thanks for the great post!

Graceful said...

yup, you nailed it, Susan. I would love to write and write all day long as my full-time job. It's my true passion. But I have a job, and kids, and a husband and a home to care for. So I take what I can get...but I always want more.