The Seventh Discipline: Perfection

I was going to call this discipline “vanity,” but I thought that might be a bit harsh. You’ve got three or four minutes left in your writing moment. You’ve worked on your key sentence; you’ve said what you know; you’ve achieved the simplest statement that ten minutes of editing affords; and you have read yourself out loud. Time to wrap things up.

Remember that “perfect” doesn’t mean anything other than “finished” (from per, “through”, and facere,“to do”). There is no absolute standard of completing, there’s just getting the thing “done”. For now. That’s why it’s so important to leave your perfectionism only a few minutes to assert itself. Appreciate what you have achieved in its finitude, don’t be disappointed by everything you didn’t accomplish because you were not given unlimited resources.

In these last few minutes, immediately after reading yourself out loud, simply react to what you learned from that experience. Fix your spelling if that’s what struck you, what stung your vanity. Insert or remove a comma as necessary. Break up a long sentence that had you gasping for air into two sentences that skip like a stone on the still surface of a lake. Unmix a metaphor. Distill a concept into its essence. Address the issues that strike you as most pressing. Do what you like, but be mindful of the clock.

When it runs out, stop. You’ve then spent 27 minutes writing a paragraph about something you know. You should feel pretty good, pretty smart, but a little tired. You should feel like you’ve been put through your paces in prose. You have probably learned something, but it’s just a feeling for now. I’ll emphasize the point: you’ve done what you can. It’s not perfect but it is finished. You’re done with this paragraph for today. Put it behind you.

Discipline Zero awaits.

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