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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is Life Too Short for Perfect Writing?


Having heard of an interesting piece of graffiti, I went to see and photograph it just the other day. It is a statement that reads, simply, Life’s too short for perfect writing. Simple on the surface, but it is a deceptive idea, and one that I at least should examine carefully.

The first thing to say is that the statement does not say that life is too short for goodwriting: in my opinion there is no place for any other kind. Here good for me refers to the intention of the writer: not all of us are gifted authors (though some of us can dream!). So, it is the word perfect that gives us trouble here. Of course a thing-whether writing or any other thing- might be perfect by its nature or by the way in which it is able to express its purpose. It is the persuit of perfection (as opposed to the persuit of excellence: the two are not the same) that life is too short for I think.

Perfectionism is a curse! At least it has been for me. Nothing has ever been good enough, mainly because I have never been satisfied with my efforts. Of course being cursed with perfectionism doesn’t only apply to oneself: all people and all things in one’s life are affected and the curse rolls on and on doing its damage and preventing authenticity, full truth and life to express itself.

The other part of this statement worth looking at is Life’s too short. By itslef it is not in dispute: life is what life is; it can be niether too short or too long, it can only be its perfect (you see? here is a use of perfect in a natural and correct context) length. And this is precisely why it is too short for perfect writing that is created via a perfectionist attitude.

Life is for living. There is no meaning to it outside of that which we create during our time of living, and then it is only for the duration of that life (as far as we can know of course). A part of that meaning, for me as for many many other writers, is to write. And it is required of us to make that writing as good (however we define that) as we can. If our writing communicates the intended ideas in a way that our readers can relate to, then it is perfect. There is no need to think about it anymore.

Thank you

PS My partner says that maybe I have taken this graffiti message on board: she says my writing is getting better and better. I am not concious of letting go of my perfectionism, but it is one of those things that lives below the surface and it isn’t always available to scrutiny. Time will tell. By the way, the statement appeared at the bottom of a cafe menu scrawled onto an old iron sheeting fence behind the cafe, near the river near where we live. It, I think, refers to the untidyness of the handwriting on the sign. A sort of apology I guess. Interesting.

PPS This post has been copied from my other blog over at Wordpress. Not that I am being lazy, just that I want to share this post with more of my legions of fans!

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