The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist. ― Michael Lee

Where To Begin

When I sat down to write my first book, I was terrified. I had spent years as an editor, but now, as a writer, I didn’t know where to begin. So I did what people do when they’re afraid—I called a friend.

“Lisa,” she said, “you’re an editor, right? You’ve dealt with manuscripts that were in terrible shape and you worked on them until they were good, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“So just write a terrible manuscript,” she said. “And then you can edit it.”

Perfectionism Cure 

That comment cured me of my perfectionism in an instant, and I still think about it every time I sit down to edit a draft of my work, as I’m doing now. For me, editing is the fun part. It’s the part when I can finally see both the forest and the trees, and I can slow down and make each scene feel intentional. It’s the moment at which I fill out the layers of the characters, the conflicts, and the emotional landscape.

For me, writing is like baking a cake. It’s a whirl of ingredients that tends to turn the kitchen into a mess. Editing is the part that comes after the foundation is baked and cooled—it’s the frosting, the delicious spread that helps everything hold together and look beautiful. It’s the moment at which I can smooth out imperfections and correct flaws.

Piece of Cake

I know that editing is not everyone’s comfort zone, and I understand how hard it can be to face your own work’s shortcomings. The first step is to accept that your work will have shortcomings. The game, then, is to find as many as possible. When I do this, I feel less like my work has failed to live up to my hopes for it, and more like I’m still actively working toward making the art I set out to create.

Letting go of perfectionism is the only way to get closer to excellence.