Pat Yourself on the Back If
You're Not Perfect …

I'm dedicating this week to helping you become a more productive and happier writer.

Let’s start with a question …

Would you like to be "the perfect writer"?

By that, I mean that everything you write is … well … perfect.

And I'm not just referring to no typos either. I'm talking perfect in every way. It always achieves 100 percent of its intended goal.

Well, let's think about this for a minute. Because if perfection is what you strive for, it comes at considerable cost.

Have you ever spent too much time writing something? Where the extra time you spent didn't make what you wrote all that much better?

I know I have.

I'd edit something. Print it out. Edit it again and repeat the process ad nauseam. Then I'd let it sit overnight and do it all over again the next morning.

In his book Write More, Sell More, master copywriter and bestselling author Bob Bly writes:

"When it comes to writing, my goal is to be good, not perfect."

The late author Isaac Asimov once said this about the subject:

"I'm a non-perfectionist. I don't look back at, regret, or worry at what I have written."

Bly also quotes children's book author Ronald D. Smith as saying:

"I don't think any writing is perfect, ever. You can really hang yourself up by trying to get into that perfection mode, as if we think anybody can write something that's perfect."

Dan Kennedy echoed the above sentiments in his 2009 AWAI Bootcamp presentation when he said that you shouldn't worry about getting your copy perfect. And that if you follow the right formula and use the right secrets, you should be able to get your copy "good enough to pull serious results."

The cost of trying to be too perfect is obviously that it takes more time.

And clients, Bly writes, do not have the time or budget for perfection. He says that for most projects, 95 percent of perfection is good enough.

Of course, that doesn't mean you deliberately leave in typos or do a halfhearted job.

It means that you come to recognize when your copy gets to the point where it's good enough. Where the extra effort and time you spend on it will not produce what Bly calls "a proportionally worthwhile improvement in your final copy."

Bly recommends flatly that when it comes to copy, you should "write it, check it, and let it go."

Do you feel you spend too much time making your copy perfect? Or have you always known when enough is enough? Please post your comments about how you decide when something you wrote is "good enough" here.

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Published: June 18, 2012

3 Responses to “Pat Yourself on the Back If You're Not Perfect...”

  1. Thank you for contributing this article.

    Indeed, it is important to understand and appreciate the difference between perfection and excellence.

    Copywriters must avoid perfection. At the same time, however, copywriters need to strive for excellence.

    Tom Peters and Robert Waterman even wrote a book on it: "In Search of Excellence." It is a must read, so put it on your to do list.

    People who strive for excellence are not perfectionists. Ask Richard Branson, the British billionaire, entrepreneur.

    Forget about human beings, not even machines are perfect. After all, machines also fizzle out over time.

    Archan Mehta

  2. Re. John Wood's sage piece about copywriting and the curse of perfectionism, perhaps comedian Steven Wright said it best:

    "In school they told me 'Practice makes perfect.' And then they told me 'Nobody's perfect,' so then I stopped practicing."

    Lou Wasser

  3. I'm a reporter. I don't have time for perfect, although I do strive for no typos and correctly spelled names. :-) My online news source is a success because people like the way I get the facts correct, too.


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