Letting Go of Writer’s Perfection

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
– Ernest Hemingway

Quotes and personal experience are my inspirational dream team for Rubber Ducky Copywriter. So when I came across this quote from Papa Hemmingway, a writer who can be (and often is) considered a master, my bells went off.

I was inspired to offer advice on how to accept your writing in all of its glory. To love the good, the bad and the improperly punctuated.

It may have a lede only a mother could love, but it’s your baby.

But unlike most of my posts, this one refused to come out and play. Instead, it stubbornly sat on the back burner for a few weeks—arms crossed, frowny face, the works. There was no budging or bribing it.

Finally, I figured out why.

I have zero experience accepting my own writing as it is, so I have zero advice to offer you about it.

And, I was struggling with the even concept of not being able to achieve perfection. Sure, I’ve thrown my hands up and shouted “no more!” I’ve also hit dead-end ideas and turned projects in only because my deadlines told me to, not because I thought they couldn’t be improved.

But deep down, I never considered that mastery was out of reach. Some day, one day…it could happen if I work hard enough or if my muse is feeling charitable.

And if Papa Hemmingway didn’t consider himself a master, what chance does a puny mortal like me have?

What’s the end goal supposed to be if not mastery?

Insert light bulb moment here.

We may never achieve writerly mastery, but it should always be in our writer’s nature to try.

It doesn’t matter if we’re copywriters, fictions writers, poets, magazine writers, bloggers, home diary keepers, journalists or any other kind of writer. We need to appreciate what we create while breaking out of our comfort zones and striving to get better with each flawed attempt at impossible perfection.

In an attempt to take my own advice, I wrote a short poem. Here’s my imperfection for the world to see…

Beware the Werebunny
A fluffy little bunny hops down a path so dark.
Out comes the moon, now you’re bunny’s prey.
A leap, a landing, a short scream in the park.
Your life released, your prayer a bray.
The fluffy little bunny hops down a path so dark.

Here’s where I admit that I was never a great poet to start with and that I haven’t written a single verse in 15 years. But apparently this little piece was rolling around in my head, waiting for me to write it. And I like it.

We accept the calling of being a writer. And while we’ll never be perfect writers: our only realistic challenge is to enjoy the journey. And hopefully pay our bills along the way.

Do you think mastery can be achieved? Or, do you find its impossibility liberating?

8 thoughts on “Letting Go of Writer’s Perfection

  1. Erica
    We should always strive for perfection but accept that it can never ever be achieved.
    (That almost sounds like one of those Hemingway quotations, like the one you have at the top here).

  2. I found you through Make a Living Writing. When i saw this title in the comments I HAD to read it.
    I worry that my writing isn’t good enough these days. Yesterday, I read a few books on writing and realized that your first draft, after outlining, helps you “throw up” your ideas on paper. It may take a few drafts and third person feedback to truly feel that what you wrote clearly communicates your ideas. From what I read, there is no one way to structure a piece. It is based on your thinking, research, and the reader.
    I think I just addressed my own worry. I hope it helps others.

    • Hi Faith,

      That’s a struggle a lot of writers have. Self Doubt is a nasty bugaboo that works ’round the clock to keep us from doing what we need: write to our heart’s content. Every writer has a different path but we need to keep the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other (or one word after the next).

      Welcome to Rubber Ducky Copywriter!

  3. I don’t think that striving for perfection is good because we know that it can’t be acheived. Perhaps striving to be a master at your craft is not a such a bad idea. Maybe I’ll live to be 200. 🙂

    • Hi Peter – Maybe think of it as Luke Skywalker striving for the same level of Jedi-mastery as Yoda. “Yeah, if you live for 300 years.” 🙂

  4. Since my idea of mastery could be different from yours, who’s to say what is masterful or perfect and what isn’t? I think I strive for my own perfection – my reality of what perfection is within a piece. Once you’ve achieved this, it should be good enough…no?

    • That’s a really good point. And, I think, a healthy (sane) way of looking at it. Sometimes “perfect” means “finally out of my inbox.”

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