Wednesday, March 19, 2014
The Real Definition: Excellence, and Perfection
I can't say whether or not this is starting off on the right foot or not. Especially as this is the first post of the new blog. But I'll share something that I do know, something I've learned just recently. I've been caught up in this idea that I can find perfection if I just keep working. I'll just keep editing, revising, and changing and editing and revising again until I find myself looking at a story surprisingly different from the one I imagined, and so much more beautiful. Through continuous sweat and reflection I'll find something perfect.
But what if not? Because I did find myself looking at my work, so completely changed from what it had been a long time ago...but no closer to this supposed idea of perfection that I had assumed I would see? So then I wondered--what if I never found it? What if I have been kidding myself?
What is the definition of perfection? My idea was a vague one--that I would find myself staring it in the face someday. And perhaps I will find something of that in the end, as my work is far from over. But how can I strive for it, when I have no clear idea what it actually is?
Then I found myself thinking of the classics, and modern books that I know will one day be classics. They are stories of excellence. I realized, when thinking about different points of them, that not one of them I would call perfect. Many had minor quirks or details that I thought were either silly or underdeveloped. I thought that Tolkien, my favorite author, had a strange way of not filling out enough of some of the characters. I love seeing more in depth storylines. Charles Dickens, in my humble opinion as a reader, sometimes felt like he was trying to show how impressively he could carry on a sentence without sacrificing proper grammar. Still, both are excellent writers, as time has proved. People continue to love what they gave. And I don't see how people won't continue to love them, as time goes on. This only reminded me of how I read how often Tolkien wrote and rewrote--and still he thought further changes should be made. Dickens gave an alternative ending to Great Expectations at one point. And I like both. Did they ever think that any one of their stories was finally perfect? Thinking on that, I found that I doubted it. I believe that they strove to find a truth in themselves, and they shared it. They strove for excellence. They just gave the best of themselves, truths they knew.
Perhaps this is the truth between perfection and excellence. We can never find perfection until we are perfect--and that is something we will never find for ourselves, because we can't even recognize it. But we continue to strive to be better, to find our own truth--our own excellence. And by our striving, and the truth within ourselves, to share that--we will find excellence in our work. And nothing can be better. The definition of excellence is:
"The quality of being outstanding or extremely good."
Whereas perfection is:
"The condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
So just tell your own truth, I guess--that's the telling of a good story. I'll keep going, keep learning, and see what I'll end up with. It only seems appropriate that I end this post with the words of those who've gone before us.
“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”
—William S. Burroughs
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
*Post first published in Beyond the Pages blog, by E.C.S.