“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Perfection & Writing

Finish your story; let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.--Emma Coats

I'm a perfectionist. I don't think I always was, but somewhere between becoming a teacher, being a wife, and having children it happened. And for me, being a perfection means that if I notice halfway through that something isn't the way I want it, I stop and start over. Is this a practical way to be? I think it has its place. I mean, I'm a super amazing stay-at-home mom, so something's working.

With writing, though, perfection isn't immediate, and expecting it to be is dangerous both to the writer and the story. It's world building and character development, all things that involve time and process. You, as a human, were not born as you are today. You grew. You changed. You met obstacles and challenges. You succeeded and you failed. It isn't fair to expect that a character in a story will pour from your head immediately perfect, any more that it's fair to expect a child to grow up without making a mistake or ever changing. And what's more, it wouldn't be very interesting.

If you plug on, and find yourself growing frustrated or bored with your story, it's time to throw in a twist or turn. Fling your main character down on some railroad tracks, or have them go skydiving. Are they claustrophobic? Lock them in an elevator with their archnemesis. As much as it's anything else, writing a first draft should be like playtime for a writer. Have fun. Know going in that no one needs to know about the imperfections, and you're perfectly okay in ignoring them. It's all a means to an end, really. Because, you see, if you never get to the end, there won't ever be a whole story. And that sort of imperfection is one that a real writer can find devastating and discouraging. Knowing an unfinished story looms like a week's worth of laundry. You never want to go back to it because it's become too overwhelming.

Would it be great to spit out perfect and complete stories every time? Of course. But it's not realistic. So suck it up, plug on, and when it's over, take a step back. It's time to revise and edit, and...well, that's the time to go all perfectionist crazy.

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