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how to beat perfectionism with STAR WARS

Beat Perfectionism with Star Wars

(4 min read.) If you want to beat perfectionism, this tip is the closest thing I have to magic.

Try it. It might make you laugh, but it also might work.

When you think of your favorite movie, is there a part that sucks? Does your favorite book have a part that sucks? You get to do that, too.

The same way you forgive your favorite creators, people will forgive the part of your work that sucks if the best part is really special.

Make the best part amazing. Then, just get ’em there. However you can. It’s okay if your solution for how to get people to the best part is a little messy. It’s okay if some of the trip is bumpy. If the view from the highest peak is cool enough, people will put up with some pretty rough climbing.

If you like this idea but are tortured by the specter of shame and guilt known as perfectionism, here’s something to consider. It’s called STAR WARS. Like a third of it is really, really bad. Maybe more than a third. But, I dare you to say it should never have been made at all.

It has a bunch of wooden dialogue, some really weird plot holes, and plenty of characters with little-to-no motivation and names that sound like generic store brand prescription antibiotics. But nobody cares. That’s because the vibe is fun as hell, the design is iconic, the lightsaber battles are awesome, it’s in outer-frickin’-space, the robots are imaginatively distinctive, the word “Wookie” is an amazing invention, the psychology is relatable because almost everyone has a few daddy issues, the music is gorgeous and exciting, and Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are both lethally hot.

If I could go back in time and influence Star Wars, I wouldn’t even try to fix most of its problems. I’d just see if there was any way on Earth to make Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford any hotter. Can you imagine how incredible Star Wars would be if they were EVEN HOTTER?

Once I’d figured out how to work that miracle, I’d pretty much leave the rest of it alone. It’s fine. It’s good enough. I have other stuff to do, and Star Wars is already getting its job done.

That said: I would turn Jar Jar Binks into a robot who beeps instead of keeping him as a racist CGI nightmare lizard clown who speaks, because that character was a huge mistake. (It doesn’t have to all be perfect, but do try to fix the very worst parts of your work; you need people to stay with you and not vomit in the middle of their experience.)

As a writing coach, people usually come to me worried about the weak parts of their writing. That’s what they figure we’ll mostly work on. We do that a bit. But I also coach them on making the best parts even better. Once we get into that, the entire project lifts up! The impact is massive. Usually even bigger than when we fix the not-quite-perfect bits.

The highlights of your writing are what will make it matter to strangers. Stay focused on that. Honestly.

The rest of your work?

It pretty much just needs to be barely good enough to hold together.

A lot of your writing can be kinda like a rickety bridge that wobbles a bit but can still get people safely across a gap between the mountains. The bridge might shake in the wind, but it can still get ’em across to the best part. That’s what people need. Don’t spend your whole life decorating the bridge or polishing it until it gleams. Beat perfectionism by letting the bridge be rickety, just as long as it can people get across. What people want is to get across the chasm fast so they can arrive at the best part and see the beautiful view. They’re here because they want the best of what you can offer. If you give ’em that, you can get away with murder. And with naming a character “Salacious B. Crumb.” (Which is a real character name direct from George Lucas.)

Feeling frozen and stuck? Not everything about your work is perfect, so you’re gonna give up and never finish it? Or you’re gonna finish it but never publish?

What would Chewbacca do?

The cool stuff is the best of Star Wars. Those parts are the rest of Star Wars. Some of your work might be as bad as that stuff. But if some of it’s also great, nobody will care about the junk.

Don’t let the rest of it overcome the best of it.

In one of the WORST lines in all of Star Wars, Rose says “We don’t win by killing what we hate, but saving what we love.

That’s terrible dialogue for a full-grown human woman to have to sincerely say out loud in a film, but it’s great writing advice!

Save what you love about your writing. Let that be what matters in your work. Beat perfectionism by remembering Star Wars. You get to be as bad as Star Wars if you’re also as good.

Is your work actually worse than the deeply boring scene in Star Wars where a random Ewok gets excited about feeding Princess Leia a jungle protein bar? What about the ridiculously overwrought part that includes the actual line of incredibly graceless dialogue: “I wish that I could just wish away my feelings?” What about all the parts where Stormtroopers (trained professional soldiers) can’t ever hit any target they shoot at (despite having incredibly advanced, futuristic space guns)? What about the fact that so many Jedi have awful tiny mullet braids? Or all the terrible CGI? Or when Luke whines “but I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!!!!!”

Is your work worse than that?

If not, you’re home free! So, forget the weak bits. At least for right now. All you gotta do is focus on making the best parts as good as your favorite lightsaber battle, the coolest quip from Carrie Fisher, or the thrill of the music swelling when Darth Vader steps onscreen. If you can nail even a few moments like that, people will put up with a lot of nonsense to get the goodies.

Don’t let the fact that all of your work isn’t perfect destroy the opportunity for the AWESOME parts to find their audience out here in the galaxy.

(If you like this idea but want a more practical explanation, try draw a pig who farts.)

xo, megan

Thanks for giving this a few minutes. I hope it felt supportive.

I’m a f*ckin’ friendly writing coach.

Let’s see what an hour with me can do for you. Get treated with honesty and respect. Bring your work-in-progress, your goals, or your frustrated blank page. Sliding scale; no ongoing commitment; just an hour to work on your writing. See me in a private zoom to put my 20+ years of experience on your side.

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