This post was particularly difficult to write. I wrote it… then scrapped all but a single paragraph. At first, I thought it was because it wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t perfect. Then I realized it was very similar to my post on expectations. Deeper than that, I was missing what was at the heart of the matter. Have you ever struggled to write about something because it’s so deeply difficult for you on a personal level? This is that difficult thing for me.
What is perfect writing?
My original thought, or at least the excuse I would use, is that perfect writing is doing it right the first time. It’s doing it better than everyone else, crafting something that immediately stands above the competition. It’s avoiding the pitfalls that creators deal with and writing something worth reading, worth sharing with others.
It was combining the world building and magic systems that Brandon Sanderson seems capable of creating on a whim. It was crafting beautifully broken characters, like what Patrick Rothfuss did with Denna in his Kingkiller Chronicles. It’s writing interesting and organic dialogue like Scott Lynch is able to write.
Are you starting to see the problem here? Perfection became surpassing what full-time fantasy authors are able to create. A logical question would be, ‘Why would you set the bar so impossibly high?’
The tip of the iceberg
Sometimes the questions we ask ourselves aren’t the right ones, they don’t strike at the heart of the matter. My desire for perfection all but ground any writing I was doing to a halt, but that’s only important in that it shined a light on a deeper problem.
See, I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years, and most of the lessons have been gut-wrenching and painful. Perhaps the most important of those lessons was having to look inward and examine why I sought perfection. It was more than wanting perfection in what I wrote. It was perfection in myself. In order to keep this post from being 2k+ words, let me boil it down:
I’ve believed that I needed to be perfect, to excise all that ailed me, in order to be – real talk here for a second – to be loved. To be anything less than perfect would be letting myself off the hook. So in many areas of my life, I stopped trying. Writing slowed to a trickle, and I was miserable. Worse, I hid my pain and failures.
Yes, my writing suffered, but that was only the tip of the iceberg, the external representation of what was happening beneath the water, of what has been happening beneath the surface for so. Very. Long.
This isn’t the story of someone standing victorious on the other side of a struggle, of someone who has it all figured out and is ready to share with you how to overcome that desire for perfection in all that he does. I think… it’s simply a confession. It’s the admission that I’m here, now, fighting.
The difference between then and now?
Knowledge, facing down a whole lot of failure and imperfection, and a very specific set of people:
My wife. I’ve been married for nearly 10 years now and it wasn’t until the last year and a half that I learned to let her see the deepest, most broken parts of me. The amount of grace she has shown me in those times, in choosing to see the good in me when I can only see brokenness… it’s been transformational.
I’m not doing it alone anymore. I have a core group of friends that know me, and I mean know me. They love me in ways that our culture would tell you men shouldn’t love each other – openly and honestly.
Finally, and this is something I haven’t touched on yet, but God. I’ve learned how He sees me, how my identity is firmly in who He says I am, not who I say I am.
This blog is a representation of where I’m going. It’s a slow, plodding thing, where I have a weekly scheduled post, but where I will also add additional posts when the mood strikes. The theme might not be the best. It might not function exactly how I want it to. The posts might not be perfectly cohesive and structured. I might not get as many readers as the top WordPress bloggers. I am learning to be ok with that, to redefine what success is to me on a personal level.
I wrote a post two Sunday’s ago on a whim, read over it once, snapped a picture of my sleeping cat, and posted it. That might not sound like a big deal, but to me it was. The post might be garbage, there are things I’d change about it, and I cringe a bit while rereading it. It’s live, however, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Oddly enough, it performed better than any of my previous posts. There has to be a lesson in there somewhere…
What is holding you back from doing what you love? Once you figure that out, try and go a bit deeper and figure out how it got there to begin with. Most importantly, don’t try and do it alone. We aren’t made to do this by ourselves, regardless of how introverted we might be (he said hypocritically).