Writing and Perfection - Is There Such a Thing?

As with life, some people think everything has to be perfect before they start their writing journey.

It may be they don’t think they’ve mastered the craft of writing to perfection.

Or, maybe the writer has started her story, but can’t seem to achieve the perfection she’s looking for.  She believes what she’s written isn’t worthy of submissions. So, she keeps pecking away at it, hoping one day it will be perfect.

Well, if you fall under either of these scenarios, you’ll be waiting a very long time. In fact, your time of action may never come.

Meriam-Webster defines perfection as “the state or condition of being perfect” and “something that cannot be improved.”

So, perfection is something that you can’t possibly make better.

Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?

What on earth can’t be improved upon? What is actually perfect?

Keeping this in mind, here’s what a few famous authors/artists and others have to say about the illusive perfection:

“Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.”
~ Salvador DalĂ­

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
~ Margaret Atwood

"If you look for perfection, you'll never be content."
~ Leo Tolstoy

"The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing."
~ Eugene Delacroix

"Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection."
~ Kim Collins

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." ~ Vince Lombardi

“Striving to be the best person we can be and striving to do the very best we can in all our endeavors is the closest to perfection we can ever get.”
~ Karen Cioffi

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.”
~ Michael J. Fox

My favorite is what Michael J. Fox says: “Perfection is God’s business!”


So, if you have these perfection tendencies, try to overcome them. Don’t let an unrealistic viewpoint stop you from achieving writing success.

But, what if you just don’t’ trust your own judgement or can’t overcome that perfection tendency?

One of the best ways to get some guidance on whether your story is at the point of submissions is to become a part of a critique group in your genre.

Having other writers go over your story can pick up lots of trouble spots and help you improve your manuscript. And, they’ll have a much more objective view of the story.

After you get all you can from a critique group, you might want to hire a professional editor.

While every author can continue revising a story, there comes a time when you have to let go.

If your critique group and editor believes it’s good to go, take their advice.

Don’t let the illusion of attaining perfection in your writing stop you from submitting your manuscript or achieving a writing career.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can check out Karen’s e-classes through WOW! at:


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Terry Whalin said...


Great advice in this article. You can't wait for perfection or you will never get published. I freely admit that I'm not the best writer in the room--but I am one of the most persistent and continue to push ahead in spite of the challenges. It's one of the reasons I've written more than 60 books and for more than 50 publications. It's like winning the lottery--you can't win you don't buy a ticket. It's the same in publishing--you can't get published if you don't write then submit your material.

Straight Talk From the Editor

Anne Duguid Knol said...

A timely and perceptive article especially as we all bustle around lining up our goals for the year.I shall adopt your quote for the year, Karen , with thanks.
“Striving to be the best person we can be and striving to do the very best we can in all our endeavors is the closest to perfection we can ever get.”
~ Karen Cioffi

Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, I always remember that quote that it's not the best writer who succeeds - it's the one who perseveres. And, realizing perfection isn't attainable allows us to get on with it.

Karen Cioffi said...

Anne, I'm so glad you like the quote. We're usually our own worse critics - it's good to remember to do your best and take the shot. Have a wonderful New Year!

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