Saturday I finished transforming a jumbled mountain of firewood into rough rows and columns in my woodshed. This monotonous activity, besides kicking several muscle groups into sudden loud protest, made me think about writing. Of course, many things make me think about writing. Like, most of all, not writing.
As I stacked wood, I labored through motions both repetitive and unique, sometimes carefully choosing size, shape, and placement for structural integrity, other times just tossing whatever was available into the row. I had a sketchy vision of the end product: rows relatively balanced and uniform, columns standing tall without collapse or even wobble. I had to keep up a certain pace or never finish; no time for nit-picking. Every log was a word, a phrase, an idea – each with its own ragged edges, annoyingly imperfect, often stubbornly refusing to fit, but still the only thing at hand.
Eventually it was done and I could step back and see the whole thing…. Ouch. All that work, for this? This rough, ungraceful edifice, barely utilitarian, not beautiful at all? But it’s finished. The shed is full. No rewrites allowed on this one (cheering from the sore muscles), so… here’s the difficult part: I have to surrender my perfectionism.
I’m grateful that, in contrast to wood-stacking, my writing affords nearly endless revision. But still, every time, I face the same inner dialogue: this piece of work is not really what I wanted it to be, it didn’t quite capture some exquisite subtlety of mood, some ephemeral shadow of memory, some brief twinge of insight. But I’ve done all I can do. I have to just let it be what it is.
With that motion (figurative) of opening my hands (heart) to let go, as if freeing a dove to the sky, I make room for something new. Like on Saturday, when I stood and stared a long minute at my woodshed, breathed deep and exhaled slow, and allowed in the sweet taste of accomplishment and the warm fuzz of winter security – just like that, every day, I have to release my writing from silly fastidiousness so that it can simply go forth and live. For me, this is a challenge. Thank you, I accept.
“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” – Voltaire
“Let it be.” -- McCartney