This post is inspired by two of my favorite people on the internet: Erin Motz and Courtney Carver. One of the reasons I like them both so much is because they both preach a similar belief that your best is good enough. This philosophy can absolutely apply to writing. Your best writing is good enough!
There are two elements to this philosophy. First, it’s okay to work really hard without running yourself into the ground. It’s okay to give just 100% and not 110%. Second, it’s okay to let yourself off the hook when you work really hard, yet things don’t go how you wanted to. There are a lot of moving parts in the world. There are things that are outside your control. If you can say that you did your best with what was within your control, don’t tell yourself that you should have worked harder. It’s okay to accept where you’re at and know you will learn and grow from there.
Writers worry all the time that their best work isn’t good enough. They worry it’s not good enough to be published or to even be read. They worry it’s just flat out not good. And I’ll be honest–maybe it’s not good enough for those things–at least not yet. But your best should be good enough for you. Accepting where I’m at has helped me to both grow and to endure the judgment of others.
With that in mind, here are four reasons why accepting this idea will help your writing life:
1) Every time you write you’ll get better
That’s just how writing works. There’s no sense in being angry or frustrated because your work isn’t as good as you want it to be. If it’s your best work, then it’s good enough and you’ll learn from it. Then the next time you write, you’ll get better. It’s a natural progression. As much as it sucks, you can’t skip steps. You become a better writer by writing. If you consistently get frustrated that you’re not a better writer, there is a better chance that you’ll get discouraged and quit. If you can honestly say you’ve given a project the best you had on any given day (and what you have in you may vary) then you should celebrate that! You will only get better with time.
2) You will live a more balanced life
Consistently trying to give more than your best to your writing is a sure fire way to burn out. It’s also a sure fire way to live a lopsided life. If you give more than your best, then it means you’re giving all of the energy you have (plus maybe some you don’t) to your writing. It’s unhealthy, unsustainable, and you miss out on a lot. Family is important. Friends are important. Trying to be better than your best is draining and leaves nothing left for any other area of your life. And I’ve found that when I let my best be enough and have more energy for other things, it actually makes me a better writer. It keeps me fresh, and it allows me to walk away from my work before it becomes all-consuming. This makes it easier for me to keep my work in perspective and solve problems.
3) It takes the pressure off and frees your mind
There’s a pressure that comes with always having to be better. It’s a pressure that can seep into your productivity and make it hard to move forward. You question every idea you have. It can become debilitating and make finishing a chapter nearly impossible. When you let yourself accept that your best is good enough, it takes away some of that pressure. You no longer have to push yourself beyond your limits. You give yourself permission to do your best and be okay with whatever comes out. It takes away the expectations. And when you do that, you unlock something in your creative brain that can help bring your story to life in a way you never considered–at least, that’s been my experience.
4) It makes it easier to take criticism in stride
Every writer gets some form of criticism. Accepting that your best is good enough is one way to keep criticism from tearing you down. I have found that when I can acknowledge that I did the very best I possibly could on a book, it makes rejection easier. Because I am happy with what I did and I know it was not possible for me to do any better. Maybe the rejectors and critics have a point. Maybe they don’t. Either way, I know I’ve given a book everything I’ve got. I can’t ask any more of myself. And I know that the first point of this post will come into play and next time I will do better. For more on managing criticism, check out this post.
5) It’s all you can do
At the end of the day, your best is what you have. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to be better than your best. It’s one thing to challenge yourself. That’s how you grow. It’s another thing to expect more of yourself than you are physically and/or mentally capable of. That’s how you run yourself into the ground. Excepting your best isn’t a cop out and it’s not slacking off. It’s taking care of yourself and putting yourself in the best situation to succeed. It’s helping you to build a healthy and sustainable writing life. Give yourself that gift. Your writing will thank you.
I hope that helps you see why your best writing is good enough!
Now it’s your turn: Have you ever put too much pressure on yourself to be better than your best? What’s helped you combat that impulse? Tell me about it in the comments!
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