The cure for perfectionism

It's a new semester, so I've been sharing the wisdom of business writing with an entirely new set of undergrads. Once again, they want me to show them examples of what I am looking for in their writing. "Why don't you just show us what a good email looks like?" "Yeah, just post an example that we can all imitate." And you see the problem. 

Writing doesn't have easy answers, and I'm certainly not hoping/expecting/wanting all of my students to write the exact same message. That would be a) very strange and b) not useful to them at all. They have to learn the tools for writing well and deploy those strategies in their own unique ways. But that is a lot of work.

On the other hand, I understand their frustration when I show them examples and talk about what is working in it and what can be improved. The undergrads just want to know how to get 100% on their assignments, and I can't show them 100% because they would just copy it.

What they will learn in time, and what most of us already know, is that there is no 100% successful writing. Writing can always be better. And that fact is both a frustration and a relief. It's frustrating because you might agonize over whether to write "Please let me know if you have any questions." or "If you have any questions, please let me know." What is the difference? Which will be more effective for your audience? Here's the thing:

Writing and editing only stop when you reach your deadline.

Some days that may be a week out; some days you tell yourself you have to send this email before you are allowed to use the bathroom. Either way, the restriction is on time, not when you create the perfect message. Because

There is no perfect message.

And that should be a relief. At this point, there is no way to 100% translate a message from inside my brain to inside yours. Every act of communication is an act of translation. So we have to settle on what's good enough for right now.

Sure there are techniques we can learn that will make "good enough for right now" more successful, but writing is, I think, the cure for perfectionism because as a writer, you will never be perfect. You will never craft "THE BEST MESSAGE EVER" that wins over 100% of your audience. So you can let that go. Right now.