Writing Coach Insights: The Power of “Yes”


After notifying me of the presence of a piece of lettuce between my front teeth and subsequently confirming its successful removal, a friend recently declared, “Now you’re perfect.” After thinking for a moment, he corrected himself: “No, now you’re intriguing.” I took the latter as the greater compliment. Why? Perfection is boring. It’s Leonard Cohen who said, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” The imperfections, inconsistencies, oddities, weaknesses, aberrations are what make a person, a place, or thing interesting, worthy of attention, valuable.

This is what the use of specific detail in creative writing is about: capturing those unique traits that make something come alive on the page by distinguishing it from anything else of its kind, picking out one or two or more key features that tell something essential about a character or an interaction or an object.

So, I’m not an advocate of perfection. And that’s not the only reason. The pursuit of perfection can keep writers from writing, just as I’ve let months lapse since my last blog entry perhaps because I felt that it took too much energy during a time of great change to write a really good post. I’m a little bit too attached to revision, perhaps. But I’ve come to realize that maybe the greatest benefit of blogging is the way it encourages spontaneity and discourages self-censorship. The blog is generous and accepting. It does not require multiple drafts and endless revision. It says, “Just put down what you’re thinking and get it out there. No big whoop.” It says, “Yes.”

And that’s an attitude that writers must constantly cultivate because “no big whoop” and “yes” are attitudes of allowing, ones that free you to make mistakes, to be eccentric, to be imperfect and thus intriguing.