The Writing Process; when “good enough” is good enough

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I used to work as a Director in a London-based consultancy firm and my job – amongst other things – was to write a ton of reports for our clients. The process of running environmental projects isn’t too dissimilar from writing a book. Believe it or not they share similar phases: there’s a puzzle that needs solving (a real-life problem or a fictional story); you complete loads of research; map out the narrative; get the first draft down; discuss it with other people; edit like crazy; and complete the final document. The only difference with books is that you get to use your imagination considerably more. And dare I say it. It’s a little more fun…

Whilst I was there, my boss taught me one important lesson that applies just as much to writing fiction as it does to writing consultancy reports; you have to know when to stop tinkering with the documents, stop striving for perfection all of the time and know if something is just, well, good enough. I was reminded of this by a recent blog post on The Write Practice by Ruthanne Reid where she talks about perfectionism and how it can cripple writers. I agree. It takes a lot of work to write a book, which means it takes a lot of time. If you are constantly editing the first page or first chapter to make it “perfect” then you won’t get anywhere. Know when it is “good enough” to continue, when it has enough shape to stay put until the editing phase, and push on with the rest. It’s the only way to move forward… and maybe it’s a good piece of advice that applies just as much to other areas of our lives, not just the writing.


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