Nothing I Write Will Ever Be Perfect

I pried the “Backspace” key off of my keyboard with a screwdriver less than 30 seconds ago, and I’m already reaching for it instinctually. My desire to publish “good” writing has caused me to adopt the neurotic habit of eliminating “bad” writing.

Unfortunately, my obsession for “good” writing escalated to an impossible level: I refused to publish anything unless it was perfect. Consequently, I didn’t publish anything at all for nearly a month. I realize now that unless I lower the bar, I’ll never publish anything again — because nothing I write will ever be perfect.

I’m reminded of the time in high school when I tried to write a novel. In the first chapter, the two main characters were set in a hotel. I used conversations with the hotel receptionist and the bellhop to illustrate their personalities. The chapter accomplished exactly what it needed to: It showed that the Gentleman was a man of power who felt he was better than everyone else, and that the Woman was silent and mysterious. The chapter was finished.

But it wasn’t perfect. So instead of starting the second chapter, I revised the first. Even with the revisions, it still wasn’t perfect. The next time I went to write, I chose to revise the first chapter again instead of start the second. In fact, every time I went to write, I chose to revise the first chapter — and as a result, I never finished the book.

The same thing is now happening with my blog:

I wrote an article about my first official piano lesson from an instructor. Afraid that someone might think “Who cares?,” I didn’t publish it.

I wrote an article about how to paint laminate furniture. Afraid that someone would think “This is off-topic,” I didn’t publish it.

I wrote an article about Thanksgiving 2007, the first Thanksgiving Holiday I spent with my girlfriend’s family. Afraid that it might offend some of her family members, I didn’t publish it.

I wrote an article about dealing with relationship issues. Afraid that it was too personal, I didn’t publish it.

I wrote an article about how I want my first Christmas with Cassie to be special. Afraid that it might be viewed as politically incorrect, I didn’t publish it.

When I started this blog in February ’07, it was considerably easier to write in it. I didn’t think anyone was listening, so it didn’t necessarily matter what I wrote. Over time, however, LifeReboot gained an audience of over 1000 subscribing readers.

This means that every time I publish something, it’s like sending a mass email message to 1000 strangers — and that’s intimidating. I don’t want to bother them unless I have something meaningful to share. I don’t want to bother them unless I have something insightful to say. I don’t want to bother them unless I’ve written something perfect.

Writing perfectly was never part of my master plan for this blog. My aim was to write consistent, original, quality content. Somewhere down the road I started obsessing over the quality of my content and psyched myself out to the point where I was no longer consistent. As a result, someone left a comment that finally caused me to wake up:

well, after almost a month with no new posts, i’m forced to unsubscribe. it’s a shame – this blog had a lot of potential.

Someone lost faith in me.  They were patient for a while, but finally gave up.  Maybe they thought that I gave up too.

I haven’t given up on LifeReboot.  I will, however, give up on perfection.

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24 Responses to “Nothing I Write Will Ever Be Perfect”

#1 Bob on 12, Dec, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Glad you decided to stick with it. I’ve been a reader and blogger since your “10 reasons”. I’ve posted once or twice about how our tracts kind of parallel… both got into IT for the wrong reasons and are both pursuing our dreams. Wanted to let you know that I landed mine as well… I start the Fire Academy in January. Keep writing, I always look forward to it.

#2 Shaun Boyd on 12, Dec, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Thanks for sharing. I’m happy that you’ve realized your dream of starting the Fire Academy and that you’ve worked to make it happen. Congratulations!

#3 Bibi on 12, Dec, 2007 at 4:05 pm

It is good to hear from you. I am sure you lost a lot of readers during you month of silence. Does “perfection” run in the family? It does in mine.

#4 Mary on 12, Dec, 2007 at 4:15 pm

You will NEVER be perfect! Join the world!!!!

#5 Stephen Hopson/Adversity University on 12, Dec, 2007 at 4:24 pm


I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while. And I had been wondering where you were, thinking that perhaps the transfer of your site to your new hosting server was the cause of not hearing from you.

As a fellow blogger, I understand where you are coming from and while I can relate, I’d like to encourage you to keep going and not worry about perfectionism. It’s impossible to be perfect.

The beauty of having a blog is that it gives us the platform and means to share our beliefs and thoughts. You wouldn’t have all these subscribers if they didn’t think you had talent. I subscribed because you have incredible writing talent. Don’t give up. You’re good with the written word – it’s a divine talent you were given.

In fact, I liked one of your articles (i.e. The Working Dead) so much that I told my subscribers about it in a post I did at my blog.

Don’t worry about people like Matt who unsubscribed. It’s like when I give a speech, I can’t worry about one or two people in the audience who “aren’t getting it” at the expense of 98 percent of the others who are obviously in tune with what I’m saying up there. I’ve since learned (with great difficulty) to take my focus on the minority and shift to the majority who I know are “with me.”

I call it the “disease of perfectionism” that almost crippled my ability to write my first manuscript but I kept going and now I have a completed manuscript. Whether it gets to a traditional publishing house is another story but I’m not giving up.

So, you hang in there. You are a writer of immense talent!

#6 Steven Klassen on 12, Dec, 2007 at 5:36 pm

I’m glad you’re back! Thanks for sharing your thoughts; I’ve often had similar thoughts about my writing and unfortunately I still only write when I feel like I have something profound to say. Maybe I’ll be able to overcome it as you have. =)

#7 Xi on 12, Dec, 2007 at 6:50 pm

Hey Shaun

Good to have you back mate! I missed hearing your down-to-earth, honest and [b]non-perfect[/b] commentaries

Perfection is subjective, like beauty, perfection is also in the eyes of the beholder. What is perfect to one might be flawed to another, the same goes for you. While your argument remained in the fact that you didn’t want to “waste anyone’s time”, you must realize even if you achieved [b]your[/b] perfection, you are far from achieving [b]someone else’s[/b], let alone all your reader’s standard of perfection. If this was the case, we’d have a problem, and just might as well all pack our bags, but I can probably say pretty confidently that your thousand subscribers didn’t subscribe because your blog was perfect, but subscribed because your words served as a new set of perspectives. So keep going at it. When you go off track, I’m sure the readers here will nudge you towards the right direction (as I’m sure they have already demonstrated) and don’t be afraid to say what you need to say.

After all, this blog was born from your own imperfections.

#8 Dan on 12, Dec, 2007 at 7:14 pm

Shawn, I really want to see this article: “I wrote an article about dealing with relationship issues. Afraid that it was too personal, I didn’t publish it.” Even make it more anonymous but I think a lot of us would be really interested. I’m glad you’re back too.

#9 WishBoNe on 12, Dec, 2007 at 8:12 pm

You’re back! I agree with Matt, this blog does have the potential. I’m not perfect either.

#10 Jinno on 12, Dec, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Yay! Finally after one of my daily visits (I’ve grown addicted to this, and other blogs, frankly) you’ve updated! I was beginning to lose faith, as Mike had, but realizing that to quit would be a sign of my own hipocrisy (my blog has yet to be updated since the 19th either.

The message here is a good one, and if it werent for the fact that I write for a grade half the time, I’d likely take it to heart.

#11 Lodewijkvdb on 13, Dec, 2007 at 10:41 am

Yay! Blog-reboot 🙂

Starting up always takes the longest time anyway, just keep on writing. And if you’re a month quiet, so what? I know blogs that have been quiet for longer, at times where the blogger needed to find inspiration again.

Why torment yourself and keep on writing, or keep on pushing yourself as an obligation to your readers? If you don’t get energy from writing, you shouldn’t. Give it time, and if it suits you, you’ll be back.

And as far as the readers…you win some, you lose some and you keep a lot of them. If they don’t get anything from reading, they will quit as well, it’s the same dynamic.

Coincidentally I tried to write an article without the backspace yesterday 🙂 Boy, I make a lot of typos!

Disclaimer: I’m not familiar with perfectionism myself, so I might underestimate its impact.

#12 Wesa on 13, Dec, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Welcome back.

#13 Juggling Frogs on 13, Dec, 2007 at 2:04 pm

I enjoy your blog, and I’m glad you’re back.

My father-in-law always says, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” I tell my kids to aim for excellence, not perfection.

Still, it’s a balance. Sometimes, that internal editor acts like a great coach and pushes us to be better than we imagine we can be. Sometimes he’s just a negative jerk.

You don’t want to fire him. Rather, put him on an extended vacation (like you did with the backspace key) so he won’t be such a burnt-out cranky sourpuss. He can come back to his desk when he learns to behave in an encouraging and constructive fashion.

#14 Lauren on 13, Dec, 2007 at 10:16 pm

I was about ready to start poking you – but I knew you’d publish when you were ready. Your wanting to make this Christmas special made me all “awwww”. That’s why you need to PUBLISH these articles Mister!

#15 WereBear on 14, Dec, 2007 at 7:07 am

Congratulations on realization!

Perfect is not possible. Striving for excellence, however, is possible; even desirable.

There’s always more reasons not to do things, isn’t there? But the biggest reason of all in the other corner is: that’s the way nothing gets done.

I went through the same thing at first; my advice (on cats) sometimes goes against the prevailing wisdom. Yet I blog because a lot of the advice out there is simply wrong, and somebody has to say it. Lives are at stake!

Worrying about revealing too much of other people’s lives is probably the only concern you revealed which had a legitimate basis. That is a delicate balance where we all must make our best effort to not tread on other’s toes.

But, hey, you weren’t perfect before, and got readers. That’s a big indication perfection isn’t needed, isn’t it?

#16 Umar on 14, Dec, 2007 at 8:20 am

I want to read all those articles that you mentioned. I really want to read how you “reboot” your life. And no one else but you would know that your article is not perfect. So, please, instead of complaining about how hard it is for you to come up with quality stuff, just write and let your readers assess it.

Here’s a suggestion that might help. Don’t publish a post immediately after you write it. Schedule it for a couple of hours later. During that time if you can come up with ways to improve the article edit your post accordingly. After the post is published you cannot edit it (unless you are adding an update). This will enable you to challange yourself by giving yourself two hours to improve the post before it is published.

#17 Darren on 15, Dec, 2007 at 6:58 pm

You are right little brother. Give up on perfection.. it will only bring you down. But never give up on confidence and satisfaction. Being confident and satisfied with things is what makes the world turn in my opinion. Good to see you punching your keyboard again and I’ll see you soon.

#18 2007-12-15 Saturday Links Folder : Freelance Folder on 16, Dec, 2007 at 5:35 am

[…] Nothing I Write Will Ever Be Perfect […]

#19 Danielle on 16, Dec, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Great post Shaun. I should take some of your advise. It’s been ages since I posted anything! I’m looking forward to reading your blog again. I was wondering what might have happened to you!

#20 Hunter Nuttall . com » Blog Archive » Doing It Right Vs. Doing It Right Now on 17, Dec, 2007 at 11:45 pm

[…] Boyd at has written about how he recently accepted that nothing one writes will ever be perfect. Falling into the common trap of obsessing over perfection, he scrapped a lot of posts that were […]

#21 Eric on 02, Jan, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Shaun, this post is exactly what I needed to read at this precise time. Earlier today I setup a WordPress blog for the first time and wrote the introductory post. Instead of publishing it, I spent a little more time looking at the admin interface and surfing around the net looking at other blogs (including yours, which I check from time to time).

I was hesitant to actually publish my intro because I’m unhappy with the quality; it’s disorganized, rushed and incomplete. But after running across this post, I realized I’m already falling into the same trap before I even have any audience at all. Sad.

Keep up the good work, and thanks for saying exactly what I needed to hear.
– Eric

#22 Inter-Sections » Blog Archive » Perfection does not exist on 19, May, 2008 at 8:44 am

[…] now, we need to ensure that they like every single release of the system. This even applies to other things than products. It takes a lot of discipline to fight that behaviour and say something that may well resonate, to […]

#23 Doug Rosbury on 15, Jan, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Why don’t we quit using the word perfect? It seems awfully unrealistic.
And what is meant in the bible by “Be ye perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect” (???) It’s confusing.——Doug Rosbury

#24 Doris on 27, Nov, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Hi Shaun
I just discovered your blog and I am already a fan. I am glad you wrote this article. I am a painter and looking for perfection has been a way of hiding myself from others, with a fear of being rejected, letting a lot of opportunities pass by.Reading about your experience has made me conscious of my thought pattern. Keep writing!!!. Best wishes from Caracas.

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