Probably the single most important advance I've made as a writer and a scholar, over the past several years, is learning how to say "good enough."
That doesn't come naturally to me, and it probably doesn't come naturally to most people who were high-achieving youngsters or who have achieved any kind of success in reasonably competitive fields: you succeed by being THE BEST. Or at least, ONE OF THE BEST. As a poster that hung in one of my high school classrooms proclaimed, "Good enough, isn't."
But what I mean by "good enough" is closer to "good enough for now": the best version I can produce at the moment, without more thought or time or outside feedback. Good enough to move on to another part of the project; good enough to give to a friend for comments; good enough for the conference-paper version; good enough to submit to a journal and see what they say.
It's about having perspective, basically: remembering that every project has a lot of stages, that sometimes one is too close to see what's working and what's not, and--most importantly--that nothing, ever, will actually be perfect.
I'm not sure that one can make this process, this willingness to say "good enough," happen by force of will, though. When I was in grad school, I really didn't know what good enough was. I didn't know at what stage it was appropriate to show my drafts to my advisor--at what point the bones, the exciting part, would be evident to someone else. So I tried to make everything I showed her perfect. Sometimes it was, in the sense that she loved it and had no suggestions for changes. Sometimes it wasn't, and I'd wasted an awful lot of time writing a chapter that read beautifully from sentence to glorious sentence . . . only to have to scrap it all because the argument wasn't working.
Maybe it's that I'm more confident in my ideas now, so I'm more willing to put my work out there in a preliminary way without every sentence being perfect or every connection being made fully. Or maybe it's that, in the absence of a dissertation director and a ticking job market clock, I need something else to ensure forward momentum--and sending stuff out when it's good enough and soliciting some kind of engagement is a way of doing it.
All of this is to say that I'm finishing up the revisions to the fifth chapter of my book. It was the weakest chapter of my dissertation and it's still the weakest chapter of my book. But it now connects, clearly, to the rest of the project, and it moves smoothly and efficiently. Chapter 5 doesn't need to be perfect for me to send the manuscript out for review. It need only be good enough.