I recently attended a middle school level track and field meet where I stood in the grassy wings of the long jump sand pit until my eleven-year-old niece was called to take her turn. In the hour or so that I watched, I probably saw about thirty different girls complete their three attempts to execute the lengthiest leap. As a sixth-grade event there was a wide range of ability, from first-time jumpers to those who seemed destined to become seasoned Olympians.
One girl in particular—clad in special spiky soled shoes and a shiny track singlet—appeared to have been participating in the long jump since birth. She had a pre-jump routine, a face set with sheer determination, and as she soared through the air, a man who I assumed to be her dad, stood next to the pit and critiqued her.
“You need to run faster. You need to keep your head up,” he told her as she brushed the sand from her shorts and returned to the approach area to try again. As I watched her next two jumps—both of which from my unskilled perspective were nearly identical to the first—and listened again to her dad’s assessment, I wondered about the possibility of meeting his expectations. If she had run at an acceptable speed, kept her eyes raised to an acceptable level, would he have been satisfied? Or would his attention have latched onto another less than perfect element? In other words, at what point would her performance have been good enough?
I ask myself this very question when people inquire about how I’ll know when my manuscript is complete. How will I know? As a recovering perfectionist, the long-winded answer is a tricky one, filled with character/plot/dialogue-based criteria that are difficult to define and even more difficult to identify within the manuscript as a whole. The shorter, truthful, but still completely vague answer is that I simply don’t know.
But what I do know is that I saw myself in that young long jumper. I saw myself in her frown and in the defeated slump of her shoulders as she walked toward her next event. And I recognized that the greatest gift I can give myself with regard to my writing is grace. The grace to accept that as a flawed human, I can only produce a flawed piece of work. That no matter how many times I write and rewrite, edit and re-edit, someone out there will still find (and likely point out) errors in my writing. And that at some point, I will have to let go of the manuscript with the notion that good is indeed good enough.
In what area of your life do you need to give yourself the grace to accept that good is good enough?