Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Letting Go of Perfect

I realize to stay enthusiastic about this blog, I need to let go of what can I call it, chronic editing?  I've already rewritten the first sentence of this post -- twice.  It's slow going for perfectionists and life doesn't wait on the precise placement of a semi-colon.  Flaubert sometimes took a week to write one page. I'm not favoring careless writing.  One of my favorite quotes will always be Mark Twain's "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter -- it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."  I am talking about things like the fact that when I learned how to type I was taught to put two spaces between sentences.  Now, one space is the acceptable format. For a while I actually "corrected" the spacing in some of my documents.  The time this took tacked on to my compulsive edit-as-you-write syndrome was preventing me from -- yes, actually finishing a writing project.  What I wrote was shiny and almost perfect but almost never complete. I've got some killer first paragraphs just sort of hanging there on the page, looking lovely but rather lonely.

I debated for a long while about even beginning a blog.  Would it interfere with my writing or would it nudge me into writing?  The jury is still out on this one. Google makes blogging so user-friendly and easy I decided not to resist. The best piece of advice I read was to make my blog what I wanted it to be not be ruled by what I thought it "ought" to be.  In spite of quite a few years of affirmation as a writer and warm support from members of Scribd, the social network for writers, I still get what seems like an odd form of author stage fright when I write and publish something new.  I am fairly confident when it comes to my writing but still there is that edge of doubt with new writing that translates something like "Is this really good or am  I kidding myself?"  A poem I wrote yesterday is a good example of my page fright as I only edited two of the original lines and posted it almost immediately after I'd written it.  This is sort of like an alcoholic drinking only lemonade for a year or a food addict eating just carrots for two years.  I'll always be caring and meticulous about what I write but if I can stop editing a sentence before I've finished writing it I'll get more work completed.


I could not know would be
the last time tight in the saddle
my legs hugging the horse
my heart jumping with joy
the guide tapping his cowboy hat
(that ought to have been
a safety helmet but wasn’t)
I was nowhere near
an accomplished enough rider
for a full gallop and I am glad
because that’s me chanting
over and over and over “Oh
my God Oh my God oh my…”
in the shade of the mountains
and divine amusement.


  1. I hear you Barbara, but you know what they say: art is never finished, it is abandoned. Furthermore from my vantage point (I am a biologist) imperfections are the warp and woof of life. They tell a unique story about each individual and the process that resulted in them and their species coming into being on this world. Imperfections are the story within the story. Now, I am not saying this is totally applicable to art, nor am I am encouraging you to be sloppy. However there comes a point where you reach an area of diminishing returns. So I say leave that last 1% the way it is and make more time for other stuff.

    Take care.


  2. Hi Phanto, Thanks for visiting my blog and for your insightful comment. Yes, again, I'll never let go of being meticulous in my writing but it's the old "Enough is enough" business needing to kick in when it comes to re-editing.

  3. Charming poem! I chuckled a little at the ending, where you chant "Oh God" haha. The poem totally made me feel the joy of a brisk horseback ride through the mountains. And I've never even had that experience before!

  4. Mark, Thanks for your warm comment.