31 May 2018

When writing you want perfection. You go at it draft by draft. But then something falls out. Or I, the writer, change. I read what I’ve written ten years later, something that was good then, but I am a different person now and it isn’t perfect anymore. Imperfection creeps in, the silent invader who often works at night. Imperfection is part of the game. The hard part is accepting imperfection.

Look, I never want to make a mistake with a friend, a client, a job, a story, a sentence, punctuation, anything. People get mad sometimes when I do, and the punishment rarely fits the crime. I had a client who flew into a rage when a sentence accidentally had two periods after it, like this.. I have hired the wrong writers and put them on the wrong assignments. I have chased the wrong chapter down a hole, only to realize too late that the hours I spent digging my way down there had to be discarded and my only task was to dig my way out again or call up for a ladder. (“Anybody up there? I’ve written this chapter and can’t get out.”)

No matter what price I may pay for imperfection, nobody can get as mad about it as I can. If you like to do things well, I’m sure you are familiar with this feeling. As creators, we are entrained to push toward perfection, even if we have to crawl there. Each work we create has to be perfect, or as close as possible, or abandoned if a better project comes along.

That’s where wabi-sabi comes in. It describes the effect of time and change on objects and people. It describes accepting impermanence as the way of the world, and imperfection as what happens to everything. A potter may throw a pot with a flaw and decide the flaw is the best thing about it. A cup can have a chip in it and still be your favorite cup. In the electronic world, it’s harder. There’s nothing charming about an iPhone with a cracked screen, but you can try. It’s harder still with yourself. The states that cloud my mind and mess around with my being are not always in my control. Stressing over them to correct them and make them perfect only makes the stress worse. The whirlpool draws me farther from my creative goal, which simply is to get up, make good stuff, rest, and get up to make more good stuff another day. Imperfection is part of that. There is an intoxication with creating, being a reverse entropy machine. It feels like you can laugh in the face of impermanence. If I can only make the right thing, I tell myself, it will last forever. Of course, I am wrong.

Thanks for reading,


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