And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Today I did a liberating thing.
I opened a box containing my version of Schrödinger’s Cat*.
(* It’s a metaphorical box. There are no actual kitties of any kind in this post. If you got to this blog by looking for internet cats, then you need to refine your search. Keep moving, dude. And I should probably stop this train of thought now, because I’m only adding cat-related fodder for search engines.)
See, last year I wrote a 5000-word draft of the start of a story for a course I was doing. It was an okay piece of writing. Kinda funny maybe, though poorly paced, and with the potential, with a lot of work, to be a decent little tale.
Since the course, I’d had that draft sitting in a folder, forgotten, forever full of potential.
Now that’s an immobilizing place to be: that netherworld between maybe-this-is-worth-pursuing and nah-it’s-probably-not. A person could spend a lifetime there. I sure could have.
A couple of friends repeatedly asked to read the draft. But I always demurred.
As long as I kept it to myself, I subconsciously reasoned, then there remained the uncrystallized possibility it could be amazing. As long as I never wrote anything anyone actually read, then my hoped-for brilliance could stay forever untarnished. As long as I kept the lid closed, then I could hold onto the promise that inside there could be a living, furry ball of awesome.
But once I opened the box and exposed my draft to the rods and cones of my friends, then I would have to face the prospect that inside lurked a foul stench and a rotting carcass, begging for the relief of a hasty burial.
What if they hated it? What if it was unmitigated dross? What if my baby was nothing more than a dead, stinky cat?
And then I had an intriguing thought.
What if it was?
A few cool notions started to hit me.
- My friends would probably give me some useful feedback. If I wanted to, I could use that to resurrect the deceased manuscript and try again.
- Or, if I wanted to, I could simply let it all go, no longer feeling immobilised, and I could start a new project.
- And I’d probably feel a lot freer and less protective and less precious in my next project, having exposed myself and been imperfect and survived.
So today, I lifted the lid. I peered inside and sent the draft to a couple of people who I know will be honest. It’s not a genre either of them would normally read, so they’ll possibly hate it, probably misunderstand it, and may legitimately be induced to vomit on it. Doesn’t matter.
What matters is that I relinquished the possibility of perfection and let in the certainty of imperfection. I freed myself and got unstuck, and that feels pretty pretty pretty good.
Realistically, that was the first piece of fiction I’d attempted, and it’s unlikely to be worth more than a useful beginner’s exercise. It could be good or bad or somewhere in between. But now it’s real and done, and I’m free to work on it or move on.
I can haz closure.