When I write poems for poetry slams I have a tendency to rework a line over and over. I want it perfect. I move words around, play around with contractions…I generally obsess. And over the past year I’ve written over 300 haiku – a poetry form that demands precision because you only have 17 syllables. It required me to spend a lot of time thinking about each word.
But there’s a time and a place. For example, it doesn’t help me to obsess over every little word when I’m writing a 1,000 word article.
Give Things the Right Amount of Attention
This has been an important lesson as I’ve written, edited, and formatted my books over the past few years. (I’m starting that process on my Haiku book, five seven five, so this is a good refresher). When working with the interior designer on books like Networking in the 21st Century, it’s easy to dive into the details too much. I would find myself obsessing over questions like, “Where should the page numbers go?” and “Will it matter if the chapter headings are 18-point font or 20-point?” That may seem important, but can you remember where the page numbers were in the last book you read? I sure can’t.
Every time I get my undies in a bunch I have to remind myself that the details are important…but they aren’t going to make or break the book. The goal is to find the sweet spot for each project. I want to balance my focus. Everything should get the amount of attention it needs – but not more. We can get trapped giving too much or too little. If we obsess over projects that don’t need that much attention, it becomes paralyzing. If we rush through important work we make mistakes and miss opportunities.
You’ll find that you have a pattern. I err on the obsessive side and it prevents me from moving forward with projects that are ready to go, but which I think need just a little more tinkering. So I’m learning to let go earlier. Maybe you shoot from the hip and rush too much.
Seek Out the Goldilocks Spot
It can be valuable to pause when you are diving into a project and ask yourself:
“Based on my goals for this work, how much attention and time does it need?”
Are you working on a project where you could reassess how much attention you should give to the details? Should you move a little slower or faster.
Find that Goldilocks spot – not too much attention, not too little. Just right.