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Hold That Ideal Loosely

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.”
– Ira Glass

What makes it so difficult to know what we’ve said is knowing so well what we meant to say.

Missing the mark. It’s a definition of sin.

There’s a lot of talk these days about the “gifts of imperfection” and embracing failure. Is this what’s meant, or do we need to understand something better here?

I thought I’d get the new chandelier hung and wired so easily this weekend. It wouldn’t be that challenging to switch out the old light fixture for the new. Or so I thought.

It turns out there’s a difference between the plastic coating on positive and negative electrical wires. We never know what we don’t know, but it can cause problems, and an extra trip to the hardware store for a new wall switch.

Missing the mark can be intentional, but more often it’s simply unrecognized. Most of us know well what perfection would look like, but few of us, if any, are able to manage it.

This can cause all sorts of internal challenges and blown fuses.

Ira Glass said our difficulty as writers comes from having great taste and not being able to achieve that special quality we want our work to have. We know it’s missing something, but we don’t know yet what it is. When I turned the power back on, there must have been a pop at the wall because when I came back, there was no light.

How do we get clear on what we’re missing unless we let go of what we hoped for to recognize something is missing?

Is this a gift of imperfection, this awareness of what we lack?

With a new wall switch installed and the wires reversed, the new chandelier worked and I’d learned more about wiring than I had before. But it took far longer, a couple Youtube videos on using a voltage meter, and Sheri reading the instructions to me aloud to determine what had gone wrong. And in the end, even my inability to read carefully was a humorous gift.

Isn’t this why we say writing is a process? We have to learn to enjoy the learning and forget the product. Perfection is a fine goal, but the gifts of missing the mark that teach us so well what we truly need from the work.

If we’ll slow down, let another see our failure, and take the time to see what it means we must do, we can grow and acquire the hidden gifts God placed in the process for us to discover.

If only we can learn to hold more loosely that simple, perfect ideal.

Hold that ideal loosely. And press on today.

For the higher purpose,


3 Responses to “Hold That Ideal Loosely”

  1. bethkvogt says:

    “Perfection is a fine goal, but the gifts of missing the mark that teach us so well what we truly need from the work.”

    The only time I ever aimed for perfection was when I became a mom — and that goal evaporated quickly. Yep, I’m not a perfect mom. Funny thing is, one of my children told me a few years ago that one of the best things about me as a mom is that I’m not perfect. (But that’s another story.)

    I’ve never aimed for perfection as a writer. My goal is writing the best story I can … and trying to up my game with the next book I write. That being said, do I get frustrated when my fast draft doesn’t line up with what’s in my head? Absolutely.

    And that’s when someone steps in and says, “You’ve been here before. You can do this.” A writing mentor. Or a writing buddy. Even my husband knows this now.

    • Mick says:

      That’s so good, Beth! Thanks! And as I edit a book with way too many “thats,” I wonder if the extra “that” in that quoted sentence was a bit of predestined humor….

  2. Great advice and a needed reminder Mick. Thanks.

    I recently received a book I don’t have time to read (but will, due to my respect for the wise man who loaned it to me). Another parenthetical sentence from me, eh?
    A quick glance through “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion” by Elle Luna is pretty much about knowing the difference between the two and acting upon the latter.

    I wrote my first book because everyone said “You should…” Being me, if I’m going to do something, I “must” give it my best. Thus my obtaining the services (and friendship, coaching & encouragement) of one Mick Silva with great results.

    I still battle perfectionism which was a way of life in the launch business for good reasons. There is a balance in most other pursuits, which I take to be the meaning of your post Mick.

    The first place I throw away perfectionism is in my rough draft. A whole lot of “tell” going on at that point as I merely try to capture the main ideas when they hit. I had to learn to hold onto the ideal of perfection loosely. Rewrite is where I believe the craft of writing is more enjoyable.

    “All first drafts are excrement.” Hemmingway

    I must go now. :^)

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