Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Progress Not Perfection!

Rick’s post about the quest for perfection compelled me to change my original planned topic for today.

Why? Because I share his pain. I also share his bewilderment that as a fellow musician who hasn’t touched a piano keyboard for years, my fingers won’t work despite the endless typing I do.

In the world of the performing arts, I believe I speak for the majority by saying we do expect perfection. Practice makes perfect. I’m reminded of the Olympic games. Four years of endless training for just those few moments of glory. Watching the ice-skating or gymnastics, I'm filled with a mix of awe and fear that someone will fall. On stage, a flubbed line or a wrong note does seem to matter (or perhaps it just matters to me).

Is the quest for a perfect novel subjective? All I know is that I am miserable when writing that first draft. Even re-reading Anne Lamott’s famous “shitty first drafts” in her book Bird By Bird provide little consolation. I can’t let my thoughts roam where they may over the blank page or just write stream-of-consciousness. Perhaps it’s a British thing—fear of losing control! But the moment I have a solid first draft, I’m happy again.

Like Rick, I really enjoy revising and editing. I love seeing a book slowly come to life as I add texture and layers and discover surprising twists that I hadn’t seen the first time around. As if by magic, my story comes alive.

My Pilates instructor, a former dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet says that in art we should be thankful for progress, not perfection. I’ve adopted his affirmation as my own in most areas of my life—except in writing that first draft. For that, I am just going to have to suffer.


Hannah Dennison said...

Hannah here - I'm not sure why the font is so huge.

Rick Blechta said...

You must have done something different than you usually do. What was it?

Hannah Dennison said...

sigh. I realized that I enlarged the font when I was rereading it last night (eyesight not what it was) - and forgot to resize it when I posted. Typical.

Donis Casey said...

1.I do that all the time, Hannah. And thanks for saving me the trouble of enlarging yours for reading.
2.Speakiing of perfection, my husbandtold me that he had a heartbreaking experience years ago when he determined that he was from that day forth going to be perfect in all things, but he couldn't keep his feet from getting smelly and so had to abandon his quest.
3.I, too, hate that first draft with a passion. But once I have the rough draft, I really enjoy the polishing.

Hannah Dennison said...

Ha! Love the smelly feet Donis - I wonder if ANYONE is perfect ... although my boss thinks he's pretty close ....