Kick Perfection to the Curb

04.08.2021 |

Episode #5 of the course How to build a strong writing habit by Frank McKinley


Welcome to Lesson 5!

Perfectionism destroys more dreams than all the excuses in the universe. In fact, it generates most of them!

We all want our writing to change the world, thrill the masses, and make us rich beyond our wildest dreams. But we also know that won’t happen overnight.

J.K. Rowling’s famous Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishers. What if she had decided it wasn’t worth it to send it out one more time?


Your Standards Don’t Matter That Much

Unless you’re writing for yourself, your reader decides whether your writing is good.

Your grammar might please your English teacher. But is it conversational?

Of course, you want your writing to be perfect. But perfect compared to what?

If it’s effective, it’s perfect enough.


How to Make Your Writing Perfect Enough

Let’s talk about editing.

Start with your purpose. What do you want your writing to do? Does it accomplish that? If not, how can you adjust it so it does?

Here are some examples:

• Tell a story that makes a point

• Make a point with statistics and data

• Take a side on a hot topic and defend it

The common thread is this: will your reader be persuaded your point of view is sound? Even if you don’t change their mind, will they say you stated your case convincingly?

After you get your content set, work on the grammar, the typos, and the awkward sentences. Why? If you change your content last, you’ll have to do this twice!

Feel free to run a spelling and grammar checker. But don’t stop there. Read your work aloud. Does it sound interesting?

If it sounds good aloud, it will read well, too.


Don’t Edit the Life out of Your Writing

You timed yourself when you wrote your draft. Why not do that when you edit?

If you wrote 500 words, set a timer for half an hour to review the content. Take another half hour to review the grammar and spelling.

And here’s a secret. If you’re not sure whether you should say something, you should probably leave it in.

If you know you shouldn’t say it, take it out.

It’s okay to be yourself, to be a little edgy. People relate better to someone who leaves their feelings in their prose. You may not know what the writer went through, but you’ve felt all the same feelings.


The Benefits of Lowering Your Standards

When you let go of your impossible standards, you’ll relax.

Then some amazing things will happen:

• Your writing voice will be friendlier

• You’ll focus more on why you’re writing than how you write

• You’ll write faster, and more often

And your work will be perfectly effective!


Do This Now

Take your last draft and set a time limit for editing. When you do, this will happen:

• You’ll force yourself to focus on what’s important

• You won’t edit the life out of your writing

• You’ll make sure it sounds as good as it reads

Decide how much time is enough for you – 20 or 30 minutes? Edit the content first and the mistakes last. Leave in the stuff that scares you a little.

Your writing voice will emerge as you follow this editing process, which is really more like shaping and sculpting.

In the next lesson, we’ll learn how to never run out of ideas to write about.

See you there!

Write on,



Recommended book

Writing to Learn: How to Write – and Think – Clearly About Any Subject at All by William Zinsser


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