Good vs Good Enough

Sometimes I worry I’m not a good enough writer to achieve the things I want to achieve. I know I’m a good writer, and a competent one, but I’ve come to understand that good is still miles away from good enough.

It’s true in anything that a person can be bad at it, okay at it, competent, good at it… And then we usually skip (in our mental scale of ability) to great or amazing. He’s a “pretty good” musician, we might say, but she’s a “great” singer. But somewhere between good and great is good enough. Because good can only get you so far, but good enough gets you much farther. Good might win you a few fans and followers, but good enough can get you a record deal.

We all strive for great, of course. Those of us who create for a living—we all want to do it not just well but wonderfully well. That’s a tall order. And it’s not a bad thing to have standards and goals. But we also have to learn to be okay with good enough. Because good enough means we can still reach those goals, even if we have more work and learning to do.

So here I am. I’m really only aiming for good enough right now because I barely have the energy. And I’m so, so afraid I’m not good enough and that nothing I can do will make me good enough. That I’m a lost cause. That I’ll never be more than good, or even competent, as a writer.

This is the reality: sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you won’t make it. I don’t say this to discourage anyone! But we do live in a society that likes to tell the story of how someone persists and eventually makes it. We don’t like to hear that hard work sometimes doesn’t pay off.

So do we give up then? That’s an individual choice. There is the sunk cost fallacy of, after having put in so much time and energy, one feels they simply cannot stop. But there’s also the nagging idea of never knowing when you might break through. That’s what keeps people playing the lottery after all. To continue is an ongoing gamble. Each person must decide for him- or herself how much of their time and energy they’re willing to wager. And the answer to that question can change by the day!

These past few days I have struggled. I’ve felt pretty down about myself and my work. This has happened before—once for an entire year in which I did not write anything but one short story… that thankfully got published because I think it might have ruined me as a writer if no one had wanted it.

Currently, I have two projects. One is a massive rewrite from scratch. The other is a fun new little thing. They weirdly have a lot in common, though I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to ruin anything. I have sketchy outlines for a couple more books after these, too. So it’s likely I’ll continue to write. And hopefully one day one of these* will be considered good enough for an agent or publisher.

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