When You Can't Get It Just Right

Cant Get It Just Right image

On this blog, I try to keep a regular schedule. I post a personal blog post on Tuesdays and a Stuff Devon Likes review on Saturdays, with some sporadic bonus posts every once in a while. I’ve been told by several professional content creators that consistency is key when you’re trying to create digital content. It gives the readers—you guys—an idea of what to expect, and it gives me a deadline each week for when I need to have something finished and published. I think keeping a weekly schedule is good for me and for my website.

But I’m also a perfectionist. I like to have time to think these posts through, write them, revise them, and even get feedback on them before I put them out there for the whole world to see. If I had things my way, I would have a post for next week already written out (or at least outlined) as I’m sharing this one with you. But that is rarely the case. Because of school, church, and family responsibilities, I don’t always have that kind of time to dedicate to a blog post. Sometimes I only have a few hours to get something written and published, and that can result in me publishing something that I’m not completely satisfied with.

I think we all can relate to this feeling. Everyone has deadlines. If you’re a student, you know what it’s like to have to write a paper by a certain date. In the work force, deadlines are imposed in order to get things done in a timely manner. And at home, chores have to be done by a certain time, or the house becomes dirty and unlivable. We live in a world full of deadlines. And sometimes, those deadlines come before we’re ready for them to. Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when I have to finish something—whether it be a blog post, a paper, a task, or anything else—before I’m totally happy with it.

1. Nothing is perfect.

As I said before, I’m a perfectionist. I like everything to be neat, tidy, and in its place. If I read something that I posted a while back and find a typo, I get very upset. I know it’s silly, but that’s just the way I am. If I’m going to attach my name to something, I want it to be perfect, or as close to perfect as it can be. This can be a problem when I’m trying to put out content every week, so I try to keep my perfectionism under control by reminding myself that literally nothing is perfect.

My thesis advisor, Dr. Williamson, often says, “There’s alway a different way to write a sentence.” At first, I didn’t believe him. But one day, we did an exercise where we picked sentences from our papers and talked about different ways they could be written. That exercise showed me that even if I think something is really good, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved. Even if I went through every sentence of my thesis and made sure it was written the best way I know how, someone could still read it and find at least one sentence that could be written better. My thesis will never be perfect because it will never be in a place where I can’t make it better.

And that’s OK. Imperfections are a part of the creation process. Some imperfections can be found and fixed easily. Some might go unnoticed for years. But the truth is nothing you create or do is ever going to be 100% perfect or beyond improvement. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you could write the perfect blog post, why would you ever write another one? If you could make your house 100% clean, wouldn’t you be tempted to just never use it again so you won’t mess up your perfection? There’s something very real and compelling about imperfection. It’s something we can all relate to. So don’t feel bad about imperfections. Fix the ones you can, and accept the ones you can’t. And remember, nothing is perfect.

2. You can always revisit it later.

College has taught me a lot about drafting. The first version of anything you write is not going to be the best it can be. It’s just not. I used to think that revising was stupid. I didn’t understand how I could improve something I had already worked so hard on. But looking back now at some of my writings in the past, I see things that I couldn’t see then. I see ways I could have made my argument stronger. I see ways I could have re-worded sentences to make them more appealing. I see connections to other subjects that I didn’t have access to at the time. Going back to something you’ve created in the past and revising it can lead to something totally new and exciting.

Adam Young, who many of you may know as musician Owl City, once said in an interview, “I don’t believe albums are ever finished; they’re just abandoned.” While that may sound a little harsh, I think it’s true for most creative endeavors. We create something, and we improve it until we get it to a point where we find it satisfactory, and then we throw it out there for everyone to see. But does that really mean we’re done with it? Not necessarily.

If you hit a deadline and you know that what you’ve got isn’t your best work, find comfort in the fact that just because a deadline comes, that doesn’t mean you have to be completely finished with what you’re working on. It should be complete and at least adequate. But if you decide later on that you want to improve it and share it again, you can do that. And you’ll probably have a great time doing it.

3. Sometimes, deadlines are more important than quality.

It’s sad but true. No content creator wants to hear this, but every once in a while, quality has to take a back seat. Consistency is important, and once you break that cycle, you may never get back into it. If you release something sub-par one week, you’ll always have an opportunity to do better next week. But if you break your cycle altogether, then you may miss out on creating things that you love, and no one wants that. Plus, even making something that you think isn’t good is a learning experience. You can refine your process and find out how you work best by allowing yourself to fail sometimes.

This shouldn’t be a regular thing. If you constantly find yourself scrambling to meet deadlines and not enjoying the work you put out, it might be time to re-think your schedule or even take a break from the creative process altogether. But if you just have one off week and have to release something you’re not particularly proud of but can put up with, you’ll be alright. Everyone finds themselves in that place from time to time, and the people you’re sharing with will understand.

Content creation is a wonderful process, and I’m so glad I decided to be a part of it. Blogging has been so good for me. But I still have my off weeks. When you’re struggling with putting something out there that doesn’t quite fit your level of quality, I hope you’ll keep these things in mind. And if I ever have an off week, I hope you’ll bear with me. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you guys on Saturday for Stuff Devon Likes!