I worried for a long time about the risk of labeling myself as Anti-Perfectionist when my job is to help authors identify imperfections. I worried, Who wants a proofreader who doesn’t care about errors?
Of course when I say “Anti-Perfectionism,” I don’t mean carelessness. Equally I will never promise my clients an error-free manuscript, because no publishing house, however prestigious, can promise it either. As long as a human is editing your novel, perfection is not guaranteed; therefore that promise cannot be sold.
What I can promise is clarity, polish, and professionalism. I can promise the hours on hours that I’ll spend combing through your words and learning your style so that the book you publish is something you’re proud of. All backed by the years I’ve spent writing and editing in professional spaces. In that final sense, I can promise you access to my expertise.
But no, I will not promise you perfection. And I will never expect it of you.
If I did, I would not be the editor I am. I’m the editor that supports your personhood above all things, even above our professional goals. As part of that support, I celebrate creative courage—the ability to try something odd that might not work. I encourage writers to make a huge, beautiful mess before they start cleaning anything up. (There’s time for that later.) And I facilitate an editing approach that honors where the author is in this particular moment of their life, a timestamp in a much longer writing career.
If we’re aiming for perfection, none of that is possible. So I actively reject the idea. I chose the prefix “anti” with intention. “Anti” conveys an active refusal rather than an inherent state of being, as the descriptor imperfect conversely implies. We are all already imperfect. But we are not all yet politically against the expectation of perfection. So many of us remain in the infuriating position of being imperfect but trying, fruitlessly, to achieve the unachievable, and beating ourselves, and others, up when we inevitably fail.
Anti-perfection, to me, is a choice. It’s the acceptance of imperfection and the practice of incorporating it into our creative process. It’s also the acceptance that even if we do our very best to live by the laws of Anti-Perfectionism, we will often do this imperfectly, too, and find ourselves occasionally still judging ourselves despite our best efforts.
In writing, a deviation from the norm, if done intentionally, is not a mistake. Or so a good editor will tell you. The same applies to this new, odd, potentially risky label. It’s a choice, not an error. And if myself and an author are really right for each other, the philosophy conveyed by that choice should only improve our relationship, the author’s experience, and the work itself. So, without delay or hesitation, welcome to this new chapter of my business where I am publicly and unapologetically Anti-Perfect, and better for it. Let’s make a mess.
I'm a fiction book editor and writing coach, specializing in anti-perfectionist writing habits for indie authors.
In this house, we leave perfection at the door and write with curiosity, clarity, and joy.
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A biweekly newsletter about story development, anti-perfectionism, and the lovable chaos of creativity.