No Perfect Moments, Only Right Ones

One of the most difficult (and often hidden) hurdles to overcome as a writer is waiting for the perfect moment.

Maybe it’s the perfect moment to actually sit down and write, or the perfect moment in the piece you’re writing to reveal the triumph you’ve been working toward.

We assume other people are having perfect moments all the time, and remember fondly how often perfect moments used to come along (they didn’t, actually, it just feels like they did).

Of course, there are no perfect moments. But there are plenty of right moments, and this is a critical distinction in progressing your work.

Perfect moments — when the weather is just right, you’re perfectly comfortable, and inspiration is flowing — are vanishingly rare. Maybe you’ll get a couple in a year.

But right moments come along all the time. They come along every day. Sometimes they’re hard to notice, since they often look a lot like every other moment.

Novelist Henry James put it like this:

“The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have.”

If you still have time, you have the right moment. It might not be all the time you need, conditions might not be optimal, but it’s enough to start something, to go on with something, to finish something.

Recently I read Voltaire’s bio on Wikipedia — he wrote 2000 books and essays, 20,000 letters, plays, prose, poetry, critiques, histories…

Every time I come across someone like that, my first reaction is HOW THE ACTUAL F*** DO YOU DO THAT.

Then a second later I hear Henry James in my ear (very gruff and a bit New-York-judgey), and I realise:

This outrageusly prolific person must have known the difference between perfect moments and right moments, and put their right moments to use.

So consider this a hand extended. I’m still practicing recognising right moments, and I hope you’ll practice with me. Maybe we can get Voltaire-prolific together.

I’d love to hear about what you’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to work on, and whether a right moment might suffice instead.