|October “Beach Sky” – Jan Bowman – 2012|
What is perfection for a writer or any artist, for that matter? What is the cost of trying to write the perfect story, novel or essay? Is it attainable or even desirable to strive for perfection in anything? I have thought about these questions all week as I strive to revise and polish, yet again, two stories that are imperfect, but almost ready to go out into the world.
Who really decides what perfection is anyway? Seeking perfection can be messy, sad, and a soul killing component in a writer’s life. It suggests a degree of control over words that is an illusion. Most of us will never have enough control in this life to produce a perfect story, novel or essay, although it doesn’t mean we should give up seeking to improve the work that we do.
Perhaps the true work of the creative self is to look at what can be learned from those imperfections. We need to notice what we have learned. Rather than looking at the flaws – those things we are not getting quite right, and passing harsh judgments because the art does not match the artist’s or others’ idea of perfection – maybe we need to notice how far we have traveled on our journey to learn.
|Gathering Storm – Jan Bowman Oct. 2012|
We need to remind ourselves of what we are doing well. Taking time to look at old work and notice what we see now, that we didn’t see at that particular moment in the past, encourages growth and supports efforts at excellence.
It doesn’t mean the work you do must be perfect. Growth doesn’t come from perfection. Growth comes from seeing more clearly, and making changes that improve something. Trying to be perfect makes people crazy and it irritates all those around them who must deal with that kind of “craziness.”
Art is just that – an illusion – and artists must deal with their own illusive sense of the kernel of truth that hides just out of sight. As artists try to capture an image from their imaginations, as they try to find the evasive “it” of their own perfect dream, they must tune out all the “distractions and judgments” that compete for attention in a piece of art, whether they are working on a painting, novel or any other complex creative endeavor.
|At Rehoboth Beach, DE – September 2012|
We can strive for excellence – but perfection is not attainable, is it? Perhaps we’re all better off striving for excellence that comes from doing the best we can do with what we have learned on a given day. Although work can be technically flawless and complete, often it still needs the extra effort to attain excellence, but we limit ourselves when we call that effort “perfection.” We are successful as writers – as artists – when we keep working on small details, but don’t lose sight of how well we are doing with the bigger picture.
Do your best is the mantra that shaped my life, a mantra that my family reinforced with love and encouragement. Our culture leans heavily upon that expectation in many quarters. Our best on any given day – is just that – our best at that moment in time as we are seeking to do good and true art.
Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at:
Website – www.janbowmanwriter.com
Blogsite – http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com