When Done Is Better Than Perfect

coffee cup and done is better than perfect message on a notecard

I can’t stand when someone tries to look over my shoulder while I’m writing. I don’t want anyone to see my mistakes and false starts and the cheesy stuff that comes out before the (hopefully) better work replaces it. I’m under no illusions that my finished work is perfect, but I like it to be as close to perfect as I can make it before it’s judged by other people.

It’s hard to put out work that I know could be better. That’s one reason podcasting has been difficult for me — because I know my podcasts could be better. The main thing that’s holding me back is lack of expertise about sound editing; my listeners keep telling me the sound quality is good, but compared with, say, an NPR podcast, I fall pretty short of perfectionism.

Yes, I could keep working to refine the sound quality, but when I try to do that, I end up hating the whole project. When it comes down to it, I’m a writer, not a sound engineer, and watching YouTube videos on compression and mixing makes me unhappy and frustrated. So, about halfway into my podcasting project, I decided to let go of my perfectionism and just concentrate on getting episodes out instead of getting them perfect. If you listen to Everybody Hates Self-Publishing, you’ll get good advice and hear from some fantastic guests. You’ll probably also hear an awkward break when I make a cut, hear a dog barking through part of an interview, or wonder why I didn’t fade the music in better. You might wonder why you have to turn your volume up a few more notches than you do for other podcasts to comfortably hear me and my guests.

On the podcast this week, I interview Molly Stilley and Joanna Ballentine. They’re stylists and photographers, and they run a blog called Irrelephant where they share hair, makeup and styling tips. The tagline of their blog — what comes up when you search for them on Google — is: “We’re a lifestyle blog with way too many grammatical errors.”

I talked to Joanna and Molly a little bit about their blog. I didn’t mention the grammatical errors, but they did. It’s obvious that they’re kind of embarrassed about them. But here’s my question: Why should they be embarrassed? They’re trying their best, but they’re not pretending to be writers. If they tried to get the grammar perfect, they’d never put the blog up at all. It would be such a chore that it wouldn’t be worth it. Then they wouldn’t be sharing what they know, and I think it’s something worth sharing.

That’s how I feel about Everybody Hates Self-Publishing. My self-publishing journey is a story I wanted to tell. It’s a story that lots of people told me they wanted to hear. I think podcasting is the best way to share it, but I’m not an expert podcaster. Does that mean I shouldn’t share it, or that I should take on a part-time job learning sound engineering before I do?

I don’t think so. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for perfectionism — when you’re publishing a book, for example, it makes sense to go the extra mile to get the editing right. And I definitely think that corporations putting work in front of millions of people need to rehire those fact checkers and copyeditors they let go during the Recession. But when it comes to what we as individuals share through the internet, which thrives on immediacy and is only quasi-permanent, maybe it’s okay to put out work that’s a solid B+ instead of an A, as long as we’re getting the communication part right. As a school nerd who used to live for good grades, it pains me to say that. But maybe there are more important things than getting your commas perfect or seamlessly editing two tracks together. Maybe what’s really important is that you’re willing to try, even though it means people will know you’re not perfect. Because putting yourself out there and sharing what you know with the world has value — even if they do have to turn their volume up a little more than usual to hear it.

Carrie Rollwagen hosts the podcast Everybody Hates Self-Publishing and is a book reviewer for Southern Living and BookPage. She hopes you’ll read as many books as you can, and that you’ll get them all from your local bookshop or library. You can find Carrie on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter @crollwagen.

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