What is your opinion on perfection? Are you for it or are you against it? It’s only after I started writing my novel that I realized how much I loved perfection- how I craved it, and the immense amount of time and energy I sacrificed to maintain it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with Day 5…

On perfection/Bookended

In October 2018 I started making progress in my writing. I had a basic structure, a tentative beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes I even managed a witty dialog or an inspired turn of phrase. Maybe I could actually write this, I thought to myself, feeling the faintest stirrings of joy. For the first time, the book seemed real. I’ve been involved in one creative venture or the other for the last decade and I enjoy every aspect of the creative process. I love being in the flow when the words seem to write themselves. I will wait patiently and work through creative blocks, dismantling them brick by brick. I thrill in zooming in to study the details and then panning out to get an idea of the entire project. I am happiest when I’m in the middle of all that and by the time NaNoWriMo came around, I was having the time of my life. This is not to say my writing was fantastic, just that I wrote a lot and the increasing word count was its own encouragement.

As a beginning writer you are advised to keep writing until you get that first draft written. Just do it. Don’t go back to make each sentence perfect. Don’t worry if each scene isn’t exactly as it should be. Go, go, go, at least for that first draft. Once you have that, you can go back and start fixing things and polishing up your masterpiece. This was a lesson that I struggled with because- and I didn’t know this before Nov 2018- I apparently need perfection. I need everything to be just so before I can proceed. There’s immense satisfaction in doing something well – a creative effort, doing something at work, or even cleaning the house. The problem starts when perfection, creating and maintaining it, paralyses us and/or makes us anxious. So, I learned to keep writing even though I could have spent a few more months (!) fine-tuning the first two chapters. Progress over perfection. And that led me to look at other aspects of my life. Where else was I holding up progress until things were perfect? Where else was I anxious about being perceived as perfect?

There is an amazing amount of freedom in letting go of our need for perfection or wanting to be perceived as perfect because we can acknowledge that we all are a work in progress, constantly growing and learning. We acknowledge that we all make mistakes and that we need, and are deserving of, compassion and support from each other. Less judgement. More forgiveness. It makes for a kinder, more nurturing world, yes?

PS I am trying to be more regular with posting here and I’ll be back with Day 6 soon because it looks at perfection through another lens.

Text and Photography © Bookended.org