Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Creating Perfection

Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it.
~ Salvador Dali

Are you frustrated?

Do you struggle to find the perfect words that consummately evoke the depth of your passion or flawlessly paint the fullness of your vision?

Are you frustrated because the words you have chosen seem inadequate, their ordering unsatisfactory?

You’re not alone. Many writers echo your frustration.

It’s a futile frustration, for language is an approximation. It’s a powerful but often inadequate device for translating experience and emotion into a form others can share.

When I originally wrote these words for an early draft of The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, the sun was sliding through a marbled Hawaii sky toward the Pacific, its light skipping across wind-rippled waters.

If I was successful in that description, you will have seen some version of an ocean sunset. Some version, but not mine.

It may approach mine. It may approximate mine. Yet my words, as expertly as I may have deployed them, cannot create a Kodak moment. (Even Kodak can’t create a perfect Kodak moment.) My words are more likely to create an Impressionist moment.

That's not a bad thing. It gives readers space to have their own experience, to paint their own pictures from the words you have freed from your pen.

Just as you can't control the words that flow from you, you can't control your reader’s experience of those words. Nor would you want to.

How often have you been disappointed by a film portrayal of your favorite literary character because your inner director cast the role more astutely than the movie director did?

Empower your readers to have their own experience and recognize that all you can do is translate your experience as heartfully as you’re able into little squiggles on a page. Begin by recognizing that most of the time you’re only going to come close. Continue by knowing that it remains within your power to have your words incite revolution, topple dynasties, overthrow "reality."

That’s perfect enough for me. How about you?

Can you let go your natural human perfectionism long enough to let your story tell itself to you on the page?

What are you waiting for? Pick up your pen. Describe what you see, what you feel, what you yearn for, what you love. Don’t try to be perfect.

Don’t try at all. Just allow. And know that from that place of surrender, you are creating perfection.

Adapted from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, winner of a 2009 IPPY Silver Medal as one of the top writings books of the year

Image of Salvador Dali from the University of Buffalo's Anderson Gallery Dali exhibition, through August 27


Evelyn said...

I'm always looking, not necessarily for the perfect word but, for a different one! I don't want to be boring!

You shed some light on why reading blows the movie screen out of the water! Our minds create much better pictures from what we read than any screen will ever do -- even the Kodak kind can tap into the emotions like words can! :)

Got my book, Mark! Thank you! I'm loving it and I'm counting on it to inspire me just as you do here. Life gets in the way but I'm trying to keep life at bay to the best of my ability. My blog has suffered much because of recent dramas in life. But, your gentle reminders keep it alive for me... even if it's still stuck inside!

Hugs and warm Aloha; please don't stop being you! :)

Parker said...

Nice blog post, Mark David. I agree, I don't think perfection is at all attainable.

In fact, i think if you ever feel that you have attained it in your work, you may as well give up. That's the moment when you stop the journey to better one's self as a writer and as a human being (I've always considered the two to be almost one and the same).

I think the idea of reaching potential is false goal, even if it is admirable. Because your potential should always be a shifting and ever changing dream, once you reach one goal, why stop there?

I think reaching perfection is not possible, but i think in the process of trying to, we can better ourselves and our talents, and we should never stop that improvement process - that is what is important.

Lastly if I had to choose whether to be a perfect writer, or perfect storyteller, I would choose the latter. It's the stories that stay with us, not the sentence structure.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm finally reading your book, The Voice of The Muse (got it late yesterday evening) This post is a good one for me in so many venue of my writing. For example, I was trying to create the perfect outline (impossible), so I finally came to the conclusion to just write and allow my characters to find their own path without trying to be quote on quote perfect. I'm just writing from the heart with a little detour here and there.

Also, I was talking to an author friend who felt parts of their story was interpret the wrong way by their readers... but I'm going to refer my friend to your blog so they will know it's ok for a reader to live their own experiences through their written words.

Wonderful post!

Mark David Gerson said...

Parker: Always love it when we're on the same page. Your comment about writing versus storytelling is wonderfully astute.

Maxxgrl: There is no wrong way for a reader to interpret our work. So glad you're sharing this post with your friend!

Mark David Gerson said...

Evelyn: Mahalo for your words. Keep opening up to the inspiration. It's all around you! (After all, The Voice of the Muse was birthed right there in Hawai'i!)

Kim Smith said...

I love this post. Such good advice here. Thanks so much for reminding us to go with the flow and forget perfection.