Yesterday, I finished another round of edits on book one of my fantasy trilogy, The One Who Could Not Fly. It took me both longer than I expected and less time than I expected. But I think that the edits were helpful, necessary, and overall make the book better. However, going through these edits has made me think of Kaizen, which is the Japanese tradition of the art of continuous refinement.
In essence, you start out doing something. You may not be terribly good at it; in fact, you might be actually terrible. But you do something and you complete it. Then, you do it again. You get better over time. You edit your novel multiple times until it is good enough to stand on its own. You then write another novel and this one is likely better than your last. This art involves learning from your mistakes, but also owning your mistakes.
You acknowledge that you have done something that is imperfect and could be improved. You do not say, “This is horrid, why did I bother?” but rather “This is not perfect, but I still accomplished something. I will do better next time.”
Kaizen is a process. It is an ever-growing ability to improve your work. Years down the road, you may go back to your old work and say, “I have done much better since then” but you also get to be pleased with what you did. You improved. You took what you did not know, you learned it, and you made your work better.
For me, this can be applied to more than just my writing. I am using this model to refine my business abilities. I am not fantastic at marketing (actually, I’m not very good at all) but I am learning and I am applying what I have learned to my techniques in order to improve. I understand that I will not be highly capable at marketing or business for another few years. I am going to have to be persistent and diligent. I am going to have to do research into what works and what does not. But I am always going to be polishing what I am doing. I am going to be continuously refining the things that I do now until the point where they work better for me.
For example: This blog is usually a spur of the moment thing. I usually do not have a plan for what I am going to write, I simply write. However, I would very much like to be able to write a post and schedule it in advance. I would like to have themed posts and a better grasp of what it means to blog. Therefore, I am going to start keeping a notebook with blog ideas and blog posts that I can use for this very purpose. Over time, I will perhaps grow better at blogging to the point where I have a surplus of ideas and things to write about, where the posts are more coherent and flow better, where I can give advice and provide insight into the writer’s world.
At the moment, though, it is a small step in a direction of improvement. And that is good.