Archives for August 2018

Is Good Enough Good Enough?

So, your standard is good enough. Aren’t you settling for mediocrity? Not at all. You are doing the best work you know how to do. It’s good enough. Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time.

Let’s set some minimum standards.

Does your piece have a main point? Think high school English. Or Freshman Composition 101. What’s your thesis statement? Look for the one idea that ties the entire piece together. In journalism circles, we call this the focus statement. It’s a single sentence (or two) that makes a promise to the reader. If they read the words you have written they will learn (insert your focus statement here).

Think about a train. A focus statement is the engine that drives your piece forward. The details are the train cars connected to the engine, heading in the same direction, arriving at the same location.

Once you’ve picked your focus statement and the details, decide how you want to order them. Which cars are you going to attach to the engine? Are all of the details heading the same direction? Does it make sense for them to arrive at the same destination as the engine?

Every analogy breaks down somewhere. Here’s where this one breaks down. In real life, the engine of a train always comes first because it pulls the cars behind it. While the focus statement of your story should appear early in your text, you don’t have to begin with it.

If you’re writing or editing a short piece, you might want to lead with the focus statement. If it’s a longer piece, you might want to find an interesting story or example to begin with that illustrates your focus.

So, here’s a standard for good enough:

  • Find the main point of your story, the engine that drives the piece along.
  • Choose the details that support your main point, the cars that follow the engine.

If a piece meets these two criteria, then it’s good enough. Your writing style or the style of the author of the piece you are editing will improve with practice. Be willing to allow yourself of the person creating the content to be where they are right now today. And then to find a way to be better next time.

What’s your Standard?

What’s your standard? It’s a good question. Most of us can agree that perfection is unattainable. At Mirriam-Webster.com, perfect is defined as the state of being entirely without fault or defect: Flawless. Who wants to attempt to write to that standard? No one I know. Let’s agree that perfection is unattainable, at least in this life.

What about excellence? Certainly excellence is a good standard to strive for? To call work excellent, it means the work is done to the highest possible standard. Very few of us begin any enterprise by doing excellent work. For most of us, excellence comes after years of practice. If a writer can’t attain excellence, it’s too easy to quit. Then writing becomes a task for the experts who have already attained excellence. Novices need not apply.

How about good enough? Anyone with a big idea can type words onto a screen, publish those words almost immediately, and gain a worldwide audience. Or not. But, the secret it to be the best you can be today. If you show up, do your best work today, and then show up again tomorrow and do the same, your best work will improve to the point where someday it will be excellent because you have practiced.

So make a decision. Show up today. Write. And be good enough. Do it again tomorrow. And the day after that. Continue to practice and your writing will improve. Be good enough today. Be even better next week. And watch your writing improve over time.