We were talking about schools. It was one of those conversations that is ENDLESSLY fascinating to parents and torture to anyone else. But in that conversation she said (and I hesitate to quote her because I know she reads my blog and I don't want to get it wrong but what the hell I think I'll take the chance), "Sometimes better is the enemy of good."
|Turns out Voltaire said it first.|
We are constantly encouraged to be better. It's not just writers or students or atheletes who suffer from this exhortation. It's everyone.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are told to give a little more, go a little harder, be a little better. Even this blog has been known (on occasion) to look for ways to make a pretty good life, even better.
But what happens when change is for the sake of change? Or to put it conversely, what if your need to be better holds you back from being good?
What's wrong with good?
Even though the comment was made in a conversation about kids and school, I couldn't help but apply it to my own life. Are there times when my need to be a better writer holds me back from being good?
A few months ago my daughter asked me if, Losing Beauty, my first novel, would win any literary prizes.
"Probably not," I told her.
"Does that mean it isn't very good?" she asked
"No, it's good but it's not prize-winning good. It's not that kind of book," I tried to explain. We were both silent for a moment and then I added "but that doesn't mean I won't write that kind of book some day. It just hasn't happened yet."
What I knew, but couldn't explain at the moment, is that if I refuse to publish something good, than I might not ever get to something even better.
So that's where I am right now. I'm doing the best work I can. Could it be better? Absolutely. Will I let that stop me from being good? No. Because, to come full circle, I don't think there's any way to get better without making a long stop at good.