Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Month: August 2016

Perfection is for losers

Or so I have to remind myself.

For the past few months (egads, months), I’ve been working on putting together a flash fiction collection. It wasn’t the actual writing of the stories, or even the revising of the stories, that has taken the bulk of the time.

Getting it typeset and ready for publication has been the Time Suck Extraordinaire.

I have been learning the ins and outs of book design. Things like:

  • the horrors of widows and orphans and runts
  • why justification is a good thing (when I was convinced it was Utter Evil)
  • how to set up a book template, with all of the appropriate margins and master pages and paragraph styles
  • finding fonts that look good and do not require paying someone
  • the differences between title case, all caps, and small caps
  • drop caps look cool, but are perhaps not worth the time or effort
  • how to write blurbs
  • the true book content always starts on a right-hand page with Page 1
  • starting chapters on a right-hand page is classy
  • there really are no (or at least very few) rules WRT book design (other than that bit about always starting the true book content on right-hand page #1)

but most importantly:

  • I hate designing covers and writing about myself

Yeah, good times.

So a LOT of time spent mucking about with learning not only the industry standards (or close-enoughs) of book layout and design, but also the damn software to make the book layout and design happen.

I am really hoping that the time I’ve put into this will pay off later when I can just use a template I already put together, and format text quickly (since I’ve learned the little niggling bits that Scribus uses to annoy be different from InDesign).

Have I spent too much time on all of this for a 40 page collection of very short stories? Oh, probably. Which is why I’m having to remind myself that:

The Perfect is the enemy of the Good. Or Good Enough.

In this age of digital publishing*, there are very few things that can’t be changed. Need to modify the document? Fix it, then upload the corrected version, and get on with life. Write more, live more. Don’t get caught up in the nit-pickies of the minutest details. Yes, get the major points right, but then move on.

Recently, I read two self-published short stories in the same genre: one was beautifully formatted, but the story and writing were, shall we say, less than satisfactory; the other one was poorly formatted, but the story was engaging and well-written. Guess which author I will continue to read?**

Perfection is an ideal we will never meet. Not to mention that it’s also a stress-inducing strategy that makes a challenging activity even more difficult. It’s time we accept this, and make the most of our art/lives.

Life is short. Get over yourself and your need for perfection (aka FEAR), and do your thing with love and joy.***


*I think this applies to most of life as well.

**The poorly formatted, well-written one, if that wasn’t obvious.

***More reminders for myself. Hopefully this helps you, too.

The joy of limits

It’s happening again. I took a break, got some sleep and relaxation in, and started feeling pretty good. Got some energy and that itch to get back into the swing of things. So of course I dove head first into the metaphorical pool because I can DO ALL THE THINGS. And then I promptly discovered that whatever energy I had was now dissipating with all of the things now needing my attention. (The same things I hadn’t been thinking about while on break, so clearly they weren’t all truly needing attention right this moment. Greedy bastards.)

So, yeah. About limits . . .

Why limits are good

Limits are Very Good Things and should be embraced, delighted in, and revered. But why should you embrace limits? Aren’t we all supposed to believe that we have limitless abilities, that “the sky’s the limit,” that anyone or thing that limits us is bad? Limits are evil, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong.

  • Limits keep you safe. There is a reason there are speed limits on roads: because the majority of people (not you, obviously) can’t drive safely at high speeds. The speed limit is there to help those drivers maintain a degree of control.
  • Limits make you more creative. What happens when you have all the resources you could ever need or want? When I’ve had a day to myself to just write, my Muse takes a vacation. When the fridge is stocked, I get stumped on what to put together because there are SO MANY OPTIONS. “Well, clearly, you don’t need me, darling. You have all you could need!” Muse says in a Zsa Zsa Gabor voice.  But when I’ve run out of time to workout, or I don’t have the black art kraft paper I was planning to use, or I used up the last eggs in Tuesday’s dinner, or I only have space for three sentences (and not three pages), that’s when Muse comes back and says, “Oh, you need me! Here, let me help you, darling.” Can I fit in a set of pushups at my desk? What about using the art kraft paper I can find and making that work somehow? What can I bake that does not require eggs, or is there something I can substitute for them? How can I get to the heart of the matter and lose all the extra words? Limits force your mind to make connections that it wouldn’t otherwise make. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.
  • Limits help keep you sane and healthy. Knowing you can push yourself is good, but even better is knowing what exactly your limits are. What is the minimum amount of sleep you need to function? How much/often do you need to create to stay happy? How many cookies can you eat and not feel sick? Determine your minimums/maximums (i.e. your limits) for staying physically, emotionally, and mentally in balance.
  • Limits make you more productive. When you only have X amount of time to do something, your brain will go into problem solving mode. It’s all about Parkinson’s Law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Inversely, by limiting the amount of time to do something, you may be able to get more done. What if you only had ten minutes to work out? What if your story could only be 1000 words? What if your deadline for creating that artwork was the end of the week? How would those limits change your priorities, or the way you do your work?

How to create limits

These examples are aimed at writers, but adapt to your own art/situation. I’ve used these with cooking, working out, reading, and more.

  • Tick Tock. Set a deadline or allow only a certain length of time.
    [Due by 5 pm this Friday.]
    [As many words as possible in 15 minutes.]
  • Numbers. Allow only a certain number (words, tools, items, etc.)
    [500 word story.]
    [Use only 1 program/application.]
    [Can contain only 2 characters.]
  • Must have. Require the inclusion of something (a phrase, an object, a genre, etc.)
    [“Everybody wants one.”]
    [A pocketwatch, true love, and a cave.]
    [Superhero AND Noir.]

What are your limits? Have you been able to maintain them? What causes you to break them?


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén